Norfolk State University - Cornell University

The Partnership for Photonic Metamaterials aims to achieve excellence and enhance diversity in materials research and education by the development of formal, long-term, collaborative research and education partnership between the Center for Materials Research at Norfolk State University, a Historically Black University, and the world leaders in materials research, Cornell Center for Materials Research at Cornell University, and the Birck Nanotechnology Center and Network for Computational Nanotechnology at Purdue University. PREM-Photonic Metamaterials is working hard towards increasing the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing STEM degrees, particularly in Materials Science, through effective recruitment, mentoring, education, and training of African-American students in cutting-edge research programs. The partnership is advancing NSU’s Center for Materials Research to the level of world-leading institutions in the areas of metamaterials, nanophotonics and nanoplasmonics, while crafting a doctoral program to take place among the top five producers of African-American Ph.D. graduates in Materials Science in the nation.


Through PREM-Photonic Metamaterials, the partner institutions have developed a synergistic collaboration whose achievements far exceed its original goals. In the past four years, the collaboration has made possible: - growth of the PhD in Materials Science and Engineering program at NSU, from eight students at its inception in 2007 to its current enrollment of twenty, - multiple breakthroughs in low-loss and active metamaterials, including compensation of optical loss by gain, stimulated emission of surface plasmon polaritons, demonstration of a surface plasmon nanolaser (spaser), and demonstration of a loss-less negative index material. - publication of 71 research articles and book chapters, 58 co-authored by students. - presentation of 200 conference papers and seminars, nearly 150 of which are invited and 65 co-authored by students. - participation in PREM research by more than 15 undergraduate students each year, 70% female and/or from underrepresented minority groups in STEM. informal science outreach initiatives reaching over 1,000 children and adults in the urban area around Norfolk State University. - Accomplishments of PREM-Photonic Metamaterials have been highlighted by many tens of news web sites and general media, including National Public Radio and The Virginian Pilot (the largest daily newspaper in the state of Virginia).


Metamaterials – engineered materials with rationally designed geometry, composition and arrangement of nanostructured building blocks – are predicted to play an increasingly important role in high technologies of the 21st century. Their custom-tailored responses to electromagnetic waves lead to an entirely new class of phenomena ranging form negative index to high-resolution imaging to enhanced quantum-electrodynamic effects and optical cloaking for reduced visibility. Unfortunately, most of metamaterials, their applications, and metamaterials-based devices suffer from a common cause – absorption loss in metal. On the other hand, numerous applications require active metamaterials capable of amplifying light and plasmonic waves and generating stimulated emission of photons or surface plasmons. Both needs have a common solution – introduction to a metamaterial of an optical gain – which is one of the major research themes of the partnership. The major accomplishments include compensation by gain of optical loss in localized and propagating surface plasmons, stimulated emission of surface plasmons – demonstration of a surface plasmon nanolaser (spaser), demonstration of a loss-less negative index material, reduction of metamaterials’ loss without gain, and demonstration of optical magnetism in the visible part of the spectrum.

Education and Outreach

PREM leverages and integrates resources in collaborating institutions to implement activities benefiting general, pre-college and college audiences.

Purdue’s nanoHUB hosts resources for education and research in nanotechnology developed by NSU faculty and students, while graduate courses at NSU have been created from and enriched by nanoHUB online materials. CCMR-IGERT teaching modules have been delivered by videoconference to NSU students, and NSU faculty have presented seminars at Cornell. A colloquium series at NSU regularly hosts PREM collaborating faculty, as well as invited speakers in the area of photonics and metamaterials – many of the seminars are now available in nanoHUB. Undergraduate students perform research at one institution during the academic year, and spend the summer working on a complementary project at a partner institution.

Norfolk State University graduate students regularly lead informal science outreach initiatives in K-12 grade schools, museums and other organizations, supported by Cornell’s CCMR Education resources. The NSU-Cornell-Purdue partnership, in conjunction with other NSF-funded projects, delivered four large events aimed to increase the awareness of nanotechnology and cutting-edge research among audiences comprised mostly of African Americans. NanoDay, in 2008 and 2009, at the Children’s Museum of Virginia, attracted over 1,000 attendees, while 2006 and 2008 Hands-On Future Tech, at NSU, brought almost 200 STEM college students to participate in activities led by faculty and students from NSF-funded research centers. PREM has provided the scaffold for the implementation and rapid growth of the robust PhD in Materials Science and Engineering program at NSU. The partnership broadens the resources and opportunities for faculty and students, and has led to several new collaborative projects.

Selected publications

(out of 71 publications and 200 presentations)

1. N. Noginova1, T. Weaver1, M. King2, A. B. Bourlinos3, E. P. Giannelis3, V. A. Atsarkin, "NMR and spin relaxation in systems with magnetic nanoparticles”, J Phys.: Condens. Matter 19, 076210 (2007).
2. A. V. Gavrilenko1, T. D. Matos1, C. E. Bonner1, S.-S. Sun1, C. Zhang1, and V. I. Gavrilenko1, Optical Absorption of Poly(thienylene vinilene)-Conjugated Polymers: Experiment and First Principle Theory. J Phys. Chem. C 112, 7908 (2008).
3. M. A. Noginov1, G. Zhu1, A. M. Belgrave1, R. Bakker4, V. M. Shalaev4, E. E. Narimanov4, S. Stout2,3, E. Herz3, T. Suteewong3, and U. Wiesner3, “Demonstration of a spaser-based nanolaser“, Nature 460, 1110-1112 (2009).
1 – NSU, 2 – NSU summer research program, 3 – Cornell, 4 – Purdue. Bold – students.

Jane Doe

Research Scientist, California State University

Hans Hanley

Electrical Engineering, Princeton University