Case study: Basic plasma science

The Opportunity: Sponsored by the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences at the U.S. Department of Energy, this funding opportunity supports frontier-level research in basic plasma science and engineering.

The Stakeholders: Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering David Graves recruited two other Princeton faculty, Nathalie de Leon and Bruce Koel, as well as Vincent Donnelly from the University of Houston to form a diverse team focused on understanding the science of low-temperature plasma-assisted atomic-layer surface modification.

The Challenge: The proposal process required two steps: a competitive pre-application reviewed by DOE program officers, and if approved, a full proposal would be submitted for peer review. The project brings together disparate disciplines and techniques, integrating plasma and plasma-surface modeling and diagnostics, surface science, and quantum metrology of the nitrogen-vacancy color center in diamond. For the submission package, DOE required an additional document, the Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) plan, to address how diversity, equity, and inclusion would be incorporated meaningfully into the research project.

The Process:  Research development support from the Office of the Dean for Research included organizing team meetings and managing the proposal development process from beginning to end. Though the technical aspects of the project narrative were naturally drafted by the faculty team, further support included writing and editing supplementary materials including a diversity (PIER) plan, data management plan, and a facilities and equipment document.

The Outcome: The project aims to have immediate applications in quantum sensing and quantum information processing, and the resulting scientific insights will be applicable to many other surfaces of interest in microelectronics, nanofabrication, and other thin-film quantum systems. As described in DOE’s funding announcement for the program, this award will fund a highly interdisciplinary, collaborative team to address the fundamental and technological challenges in low-temperature plasma science.