PIRE II: Research Overview

PIRE II: 2010-2015, OISE-0968405
U.S.-JAPAN Cooperative Research and Education on Terahertz Dynamics in Nanostructures

This U.S.-Japanese partnership explores terahertz (THz or 1012 Hz) dynamics in nanostructures. The electromagnetic spectrum from 0.1 to 10 THz offers many opportunities to study physical phenomena, with potential payoff in numerous technologies. However, this regime is poorly developed compared to those of electronics (< 100 GHz) and photonics (> 10 THz). By a judicious combination of THz technology and nanotechnology (“TeraNano”), we significantly advance our understanding of THz physics, while improving existing, and developing new, THz devices. Although Japan and the U.S. are global leaders in both THz research and nanotechnology, there remain obstacles to further collaboration between them, primarily linguistic and cultural barriers. By breaking down these barriers, this PIRE program achieves long-term scientific and societal impact, providing future generations of researchers with an understanding of both the culture, and state-of-the-art technology, in each country.

TeraNano builds on our successful PIRE I program, supported by the NSF since 2005. Our unique, interdisciplinary, team is strategically expanded for this renewal, including researchers and educators with a wide range of complementary backgrounds. All members have strong track records in international collaboration, and our combined expertise brings together all components needed to undertake large-scale research and education projects that would otherwise be impossible for any smaller group of PIs. A key feature of this team is our proven record of successfully integrating research and education in global settings. In this renewal program, we provide innovative educational opportunities for U.S. participants, including structured research internships in Japan for participants at all levels, from freshman undergraduates to graduate students.


  • Advances our quantitative understanding of the THz dynamics of interacting, confined, and driven electrons in nanostructures
  • Grows, synthesizes, and fabricates novel nanostructures for THz study and applications
  • Advances our cutting-edge experimental
    techniques in THz spectroscopy and imaging,
  • Provides new knowledge useful for developing novel semiconductor or carbon-based devices that operate in the THz “technology gap.”


  • Fosters interest in nanotechnology among freshmen and sophomore students
  • Prepares junior and senior students with the academic, research, and international skills necessary for the next generation of graduate students in nanoscience and nanotechnology
  • Adds to the skill set of active nanoscience researchers at both the graduate students and faculty levels
  • Creates participants who are internationally aware and have a specific interest and expertise in Japan
  • Educates participants in culture, language, science, and technology
  • Yields transformational institutional change, developing a new model for multi-disciplinary collaboration among scholars in engineering, the sciences, and the humanities.

Research Themes

Our PIRE will feature five interrelated projects conducted by International Research Teams (IRTs). The IRT leaders (Ajayan, Mitin, Kono, Stanton, and Bird) will be responsible for meeting their research goals. The IRT faculty were chosen and are grouped into teams according to their unique skills, rather than by institutional affiliation. This organization of personnel around common research themes, regardless of their home institution, provides the best way to soundly integrate all senior participants, ensuring they are each able to contribute effectively to the program goals. The figure below describes the IRTs. Each U.S. senior researcher will be involved in mentorship of its junior participants, assigning projects in collaboration with their Japanese counterparts, who will ensure continuity of mentorship during research visits to Japan. This structure ensures strong integration of research and education by including senior investigators, graduate research assistants, and undergraduate research assistants on each IRT to conduct research in the U.S. and abroad.