Brar Awarded Moore Inventor Fellowship & National Science Grant

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MTT News's picture
Michelle Phillips
Former Middleton resident and MHS graduate Victor Brar received both the Moore Inventor Fellowship and a National Science Grant this fall for his work in physics. Brar is an assistant professor at UW-Madison.

MIDDLETON–Former Middleton resident Victor Brar has been awarded two physics monetary grants for his work as an assistant professor of physics at UW-Madison.

The first award is the Moore Inventor Fellowship, named after physicist and Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, as is Moore’s law, an observation that transistors and processors double every 18 months while cost is cut in half.

The fellowship seeks inventions that impact the advancement of technology, and Brar’s invention involves manipulating an incandescent filament by notching it to reduce light to a single color, making it much more like a laser, but more efficient and faster. 

“You use an electron beam to cut notches in a pattern. Depending on the pattern, it will emit different colors,” said Brar. “Because the light doesn’t scatter that much, it will go a further distance.”

He hopes the technology, which will be used to create low cost, chemical sensors, can be used in an agriculture or environmental settings. 

“For example, with precision ag, it can detect how much fertilizer is in this particular spot,” he explains. “It can detect how much pesticide or fertilizer the crop is emitting and prevent over use. 

“It’s not cost effective for people to try to monitor these things themselves.” He added and said the sensors could also be used in an industrial setting and be affordable for all because of their low-cost production.

The Moore Fellowship has been available for the last three years, awarded five grants a year. Brar is the third UW-Madison professor to win the fellowship of $825,000 for his invention, as well as an additional $50,000 for the university, since its inception.

The second award is the National Science Foundation Grant for work in the advancement of quantum physics. 

Brar is working on a quantum computing project that is working to reduce the noise in quantum computers. He describes quantum computing as different than binary because they can use fractions of numbers, rather than just 1 and 0, “Let’s say I have a table of numbers and I want to add two to each one. With a binary system it must be done individually, but with a quantum computer it can be done simultaneously,” Brar explained.

He said that this can help some algorithms run faster and break encryptions. Quantum computing can also help scientists run simulations faster. In addition, it provides cryptography, making it harder to spy through emails. The technology is still in its infancy, with just a couple of prototypes, and Brar said a commercial version is still decades away.

As for working out the noise, Brar is working with IBM and two individuals from Princeton to try to reduce the noise which affects storage at 100 milliseconds. Brar said Natalie DeLeon is tasked with finding defects in the materials and the bonds they make, and Bob Cava will be looking at growing new materials.

Brar is using a scanning, tunneling microscope to try to pinpoint the source of the noise. “We’re all kind of taking baby steps,” Brar said. “The microscope can look at a single atom, it’s very specialized, so I am always looking for a way to use it.”

He said he was pleased to get the grants. “It’s a chance to work on something with a little leeway without working on a paper. In academics, you don’t often get to work on these types of things.

Brar is a Middleton High School (MHS) graduate and has been at UW-Madison since 2016. He said math and science classes MHS helped prepare him prepare for a career in physics. 

“It’s kind of cool (teaching physics at UW-Madison), in high school, I used to work in the same building as an intern,” he said.

The National Science Foundation Grant is $1 million, and two other professors at UW-Madison received grants this year. 

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