TSRC Town Talks: Prineha Narang, Quantum Engineering, One Atom at a Time

TSRC Town Talks: Prineha Narang, Quantum Engineering, One Atom at a Time

The Telluride Science Research Center hosts Dr. Prineha Narang. Her talk, titled “Quantum Engineering, One Atom at a Time” continues the 7-week series of Town Talks presented by TSRC. The event takes place at the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 6:30 p.m. Admission is free; cash bar opens at 6:00 p.m.

Dr. Prineha Narang of Harvard g0es beyond science fiction at upcoming Town Talk.

These days reality often trumps science fiction.

For many years, science fiction has been the fallback for crazy new ideas in the field, but now the genre has a hard time keeping up with the insane new ideas real scientists are bringing to this world right this minute, as you are reading these words.

Scientists like Dr. Narang, an assistant professor at Harvard University, who is developing astonishing new ways of using quantum engineering to build us all a better future.

Dr. Narang is the featured speaker at an upcoming TSRC Town Talk entitled “Quantum Engineering, One Atom At A Time”

Quantum engineering?

Bet you are wondering what in the world that discipline is all about.

The University of Bristol sums up: “Quantum engineering is a revolutionary approach to quantum technology. The science encompasses both fundamental physics and the broad engineering skill set necessary to meet the practical challenges of the future.”

The quantum world is not visible to the human eye but, by using an electron microscope, scientists can see and manipulate once-invisible atoms. With that understanding, Dr. Narang is able to knock out some atoms and replace them with other atoms, even write words and create patterns.

Why is that important?

Dr. Narang uses those patterns to build sensors – so far only as proof of concept. But an environmental demonstration is coming soon.

The goal for these sensors is to be able to catch a potentially poisonous substance in the water before it spreads. That is done one atom at a time by capturing single molecules and detecting them using quantum cavities. The idea could revolutionize our ability to clean waterways, oil spills, and contaminated drinking water.

A good writer might come up with such an idea in his musings, but for sure, thanks to Dr. Narang’s research, science is already surpassing science fiction.

And there’s more.

Quantum engineering also enables faster computing and extremely efficient ways to store energy.

The way we currently store and use energy today turns out to be very inefficient. The fact is by the time we actually turn on our energy, we have lost more that half the original amount. Even the best solar panels out there are only 22.5% efficient!

Go back to your days in a biology class, when you learned about how photosynthesis is the most efficient way to collect energy and how plants get the job done. Well, Dr. Narang is developing photosynthesis-inspired circuits and quantum devices that allow us to potentially harness approximately 100% of the energy derived from the sun.

“A major challenge and opportunity for energy nanotechnologies is to rationally construct nanoscale devices from the bottom up that can mimic natural light-harvesting assemblies. Photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes (LHCs) feature arrays of strongly-coupled pigments that can direct energy transfer to their reaction center with near-unit quantum efficiency,” says Dr. Narang.

That may sound a bit complicated, but really, what’s happening here is the LHCs are able to mimic the chlorophyll inside the plant, the substance that converts light and CO2 into the oxygen we breath.

That twist of quantum engineering, this technology, can bring a brighter future to us all.

However, the only way any of that is possible is through Computational Material Science.

Quantum engineering is next to impossible with just a pen and paper.

Computational Material Science, however, allows Dr. Narang to observe many very small systems on a huge scale, as well as look at many types of molecules within a database. In other words, using supercomputers, she is able to build technology that would otherwise be impossible to conceive.

Once the stuff of science fiction.

Everything we use is made out of materials, from your toothbrush to your car, to the building you work in. But not all those materials are sustainable.

Dr. Narang is tackling that challenge too by developing ways to extract properties from several materials and use them to architect new materials that exceed the sum of the parts. That innovation can and will reduce the current reliance we have on earth’s dwindling resources.

“I really want to emphasize that there are certain materials we were given by nature, but there are many more we can create by thinking of ourselves as architects at a really small scale, the scale of a single atom,” suggests Dr. Narang.

These new materials should enhance our future:

“Quantum-engineered materials can and will provide multiple functionalities by using atom-by-atom engineering in an ultra-compact, 3D monolithically integrated architecture, which enables the evolution of highly energy efficient devices.”

More about Dr. Prineha Narang:

Prineha Narang is a jock two times over, on the field as a triathlete and also in her lab.

In fact, Dr. Narang recently pedaled from Utah to Durango Colorado.

And she sees her passion for sports and science as aligned:

“Being outdoors allows me to think about science, allows me to find clarity by not being surrounded by email and lots of people telling me to do this and that, which can be very distracting… I often get my best ideas while I’m out on a bike ride.”

Dr. Narang’s passion for physics started in high school. Her physics teacher would push her to read advanced level books in the field over the summer, an idea that did not initially appeal. Thankfully, however, a passion and a gift for physics evolved.

Dr. Narang is now a revolutionary scientist, building a better future one atom at a time.

About TSRC & Town Talks:

TSRC Town Talks are free public presentations by world-renowned scientists on topics of great current importance in science, technology, education, and public policy. Each scientist talk is followed by an interview and Q&A session moderated by Emmy and Peabody award-winning television correspondent and professor emerita of broadcast journalism at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, Judy Muller.

With a network of over 5,000 preeminent scientists from over 90 countries and 500 institutions, TSRC generates the fundamental knowledge-base for new solutions in many fields including energy, medicine, water, climate, national security, and advanced materials for computing and manufacturing.

To learn more about TSRC and the capital campaign to purchase the Telluride Depot as TSRC’s permanent home, visit telluridescience.org.

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