Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Yeshiva University plan to demonstrate the existence of “topological phonons” in a naturally occurring biological material: microtubules (MTs). Topological phonons are quanta of sound or vibrational energy that are confined to the surface or edge of a material. Theoretical evidence by the NJIT team suggests that topological phonons are integral to the function of MTs – a cytoskeletal component in all eukaryotic cells that is essential for many fundamental cellular processes, including cell division and movement. The team will develop new microfluidic devices to stabilize MTs and drive acoustic modes in them. This work may help explain the molecular mechanics by which MTs function in cells. This award will also lay the theoretical and experimental foundation for a new class of engineered materials that exhibit the unique vibrational and thermal properties of topological phonon edge-modes. Such materials may find application in sound deadening and amplification and to manage heat flow.
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- W. M. Keck Foundation: $1,000,000.00