Thursday, June 22, 2023

Thomas Folland 2

Assistant Professor Thomas Folland has received a $235,000 grant from the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research Interdisciplinary Scholars program to develop a quantum sensor to detect polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and hydrogen molecules.

Quantum science is on the cusp of revolutionizing sensors and sensing technologies, with potential to dramatically improve their ability to detect small quantities of toxic chemicals. However, further research is required to develop them for societally relevant applications such as the detection of (PFAS), and hydrogen. Detecting both is of immediate importance, as highlighted by the current federal administration. PFAS molecules have recently been targeted by the Environmental Protection Agency as persistent chemicals which build up in the human body and cause myriad health problems.

Meanwhile, hydrogen is highly explosive, and detection of leaks is extremely important for the developing hydrogen economy. This research program brings together academic researchers in Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Chemistry to develop a novel quantum sensor for these challenging molecules. Prof. Folland is leading a team consisting of Profs. Ravi Uppu, Scott Shaw, Ed Gillan, Fatima Toor and Milan Sonka.

The program will focus on the development of a prototype quantum sensor which leverages a unique molecular fingerprint for both PFAS and hydrogen molecules in the mid infrared. It will use entangled photon pairs, a molecular sensing ‘chip’, a flow delivery system and artificial intelligence optimization to detect parts per trillion concentrations required by recent environmental regulations.

Delivery of this prototype will allow University of Iowa researchers to compete for major external federal investments in quantum science and technology and environmental sensing. It will also establish a reputation for excellence in emerging quantum technologies.