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Grant Funds Cryogenic Probe Station, Fuels Research on the Nanoscale

Dr. Jason Slinker, associate professor of physics in the UT Dallas School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, acquired a cryogenic probe station via an instrument award from the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) through the Office of Naval Research.

Photo credit: Ashan Wettasinghe

Slinker received the award in February 2020, and the equipment was purchased and installed over the summer in the Slinker Lab in the Sciences Building, room SCI 2.171. “The installation fortuitously coincided with our move to the new Sciences Building,” he said.

The cryogenic probe station enables precision electrical and optical measurements under various temperatures ranging from 4 degrees to 675 degrees Kelvin. The instrument is equipped with four electrical arms with micrometer-controlled micro probes coupled with precision electrical source meters capable of measuring currents as small as one-tenth of a femtoampere–fewer than 1000 electrons per second. 

The instrument also has one optical arm capable of supplying or capturing localized light. It is coupled to a turbo-pumping system for environmental and thermal isolation and a liquid cryogen line for low temperature measurements. Additional features include a vibration isolation table, a temperature controller connected to mounted heaters, and a 12.5X zoom optical microscope.

“We are very thankful to the Office of Naval Research for the award of this equipment,” Slinker said. “Future generations of UTD researchers will now benefit from the precision temperature-dependent electrical and optical experiments enabled by this probe station.”

Those currently funded by the Department of Defense are eligible for DURIP awards, which involve instrument grants in support of research efforts. Slinker has collaborative Office of Naval Research-supported projects with Dr. Alon Gorodetsky of the University of California, Irvine, to create single-molecule devices incorporating bio-inspired nanowires. 

“We replace natural bases or base pairs of a double-stranded DNA molecular wire with synthetic bases altering the electrical and morphological properties. When paired with complementary research on ‘DNA origami,’ controlling the electrical properties of DNA with surrogate bases would enable self-assembly of nanoscale integrated circuits with novel functionalities,” Slinker said. 

Researchers then evaluate the electrical properties of individual DNA bio-inspired molecular wires with discrete base surrogates in nanogap devices fabricated in the UTD cleanroom. Key research on this topic was published in ChemPlusChem in March 2019 and covered in a news story on ChemistryViews

“Following our ChemPlusChem paper, I was invited to join the International Advisory Board of ChemPlusChem,” Slinker said.

Grant citations:
High Precision Electrical Characterization of Bioinspired Nanowires.” Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) via Office of Naval Research, N00014-20-1-2220, 2/1/2020-1/31/2021, $122,384.  

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by Haywood McNeill — January 27, 2021