Meet the Scientist: Dr. Benjamin Taylor

Meet the Scientists is an Armed with Science segment highlighting the men and women working in the government realms of science, technology, and research and development: the greatest minds working on the greatest developments of our time. If you know someone who should be featured, email us

WHO: Dr. Benjamin Taylor

Tell me a little about yourself: school, career summary paragraph, etc.

I served in the U. S. Navy from 1991-1993 as an Avionics Electronics Technician for the VAW-117 squadron at N.A.S. Miramar in San Diego, CA, and was Honorably discharged as Petty Officer, Third Class. While finishing my enlistment I began as an undergraduate in mathematics at San Diego State University. I received the B. A. degree in mathematics and physics from SDSU in 1999 and graduated summa cum laude. I also received the undergraduate honors of Outstanding Student of the Department of Physics, Outstanding Student of the Department of Mathematics, and Outstanding Student of the Department of the College of Sciences. In 2006 I received the Ph.D. degree in the field of experimental condensed matter physics with an emphasis on superconductivity from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and continued my research on high temperature superconducting materials as a Post Doctoral Scholar at UCSD from 2006-2010.

2016 Scientist Quarterly Award winner Dr. Benjamin Taylor, left, with Mr. Kendall

2016 Scientist Quarterly Award winner Dr. Benjamin Taylor, left, with Mr. Kendall

I began my professional career at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Pacific in 2010 where I joined the Cryogenic Exploitation of Radio Frequency (CERF) Lab. I began by working on the development of the experimental measurement capabilities of the CERF laboratory facility and was involved the early development, testing, and analysis of low-temperature superconducting (LTS) Niobium RF sensors comprised of arrays of Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs). During this time I initiated a project that entailed the investigation of fundamental physical and electronic properties of high-Temperature superconducting (HTS) materials for the purpose of supporting the transition of research from LTS to HTS SQUID array RF sensors.  The CERF group has recently carried out the first in-field demonstration of an HTS SQUID array RF sensor. I continue to support this effort directly through data analysis and circuit design development, and through my current work which is focused on establishing fabrication methods for micro- to nano-scale HTS circuitry to support transitioning this effort and related superconducting technologies to mass scale production.

TITLE: Scientist, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

MISSION: Enabling information warfare superiority for our Naval, Joint, National and Coalition warfighters through research, development, delivery and support of integrated capabilities.

Tell me a little about your technology/science.

I am studying the physical properties various complex functional materials. Among these is the class of cuprate-based High-Temperature superconducting compounds. We are developing a new process by which to produce state-of-the-art High Temperature Superconductor (HTS) micro- and nano-scale circuitry for application to Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID) arrays for the detection of radio frequency (RF) signals.

What is your role in developing this technology/science?

I began studying the behavior of HTS materials as a graduate student and continued to do so as a Post Doctoral Scholar. I have been able to continue this avenue of research, albeit from a different approach, via the NISE program at SSC Pacific beginning in FY12-14, and resuming in FY16. My most recent work has relied in part upon the technical expertise of Dr. Teresa Emery who is a nano-fabrication expert. This basic scientific research is designed to support the technological goal of the development of HTS SQUID arrays by the CERF lab. With respect to the SQUID array technology, my role has been to implement designs based upon the theory of my co-worker, Dr. Susan Berggren. Additionally, I have performed analysis that has led to revisions in designs that are to be implemented in second-generation designs.

What is the goal/mission of this technology/science and what do you hope it will achieve?

The goal of the HTS materials science effort is to produce new nano-scale HTS circuitry, including, but not limited to SQUID arrays, that will both enable new and advance multiple existing technologies relevant to US Navy needs. The HTS SQUID array RF sensors have applications relevant to multiple missions and platforms.

In your own words, what is it about this technology/science that makes it so significant?

The basic scientific research has produced three significant results: (1) The discovery of a new processing method by which to mass-produce nano-scale HTS circuitry, (2) The discovery of anisotropic ion-milling kinetics in specially prepared superconducting films, and, (3) insight into the mechanism of superconductivity in these HTS cuprate compounds. The SQUID array RF sensors truly deliver a new paradigm in RF reception across the spectrum.  Their demonstrated capability is well beyond the existing state-of-the-art.

How could you use this technology/science to aid the military or help with military missions?

Specific applications of SQUID array RF sensors are sensitive. In general, any mission or technology, strategic or tactical, will have expanded capability with respect to the reception and/or collection of signals of interest. Smaller platforms will have capabilities exceeding that of existing shipboard RF detection systems.

What do you think is the most impressive/beneficial thing about this technology/science and why?

Because the SQUID arrays sense the magnetic component of the RF field, their response is independent of wavelength. A single circuit on a chip the size of a thumbnail, can simultaneously sense and convert to a voltage output signals ranging from sub-mHz to 100’s of GHz.

What got you interested in this field of study?

The phenomenon of superconductivity interested me as an undergraduate student and led to my choice of graduate work. The mechanism of high-Temperature is as yet unsolved. I hope to contribute meaningfully to the eventual unraveling of this puzzle. The applied aspect of the SQUID array technology also presents challenges with respect to understanding the physical interaction of the RF field with the collective ensemble of complexly interacting SQUID loop elements. These devices also present an RF engineering challenge with respect to designing systems that can handle the immense spectral sensing capability.

Are you working on any other projects right now?

My time right now is primarily focused on these two projects.

If you could go anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?

The Sci-Fi genre has taught me that time travel is ill advised… to many unintended consequences. However, setting all of that aside, it might be quite interesting to go to where the dark matter of the universe is supposed to be lurking and get a ‘sample.’ Or, perhaps it would be interesting to watch the first stars form.

What is your best advice for budding scientists?

Find a way to communicate the significance of your work to many different kinds of audiences. That is not to say to simplify it to its lowest level, but rather to figure out what about your work will be of interest to others. Perspectives and/or needs are frequently quite different, yet still will connect to your area of research. Take advantage of opportunities with direct contact with the warfighters. Often times they will see potential for use or adaptation that can be quickly implemented to meet an immediate mission need.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add about your work or yourself?

I am fortunate to work with a great group of people in the CERF lab, and to have a position where I can continue to carry out basic scientific research with my field of interest and to also apply this work to the development of an important new technology.

Are there any links to your public releases or other work that you’d like us to include with your profile?

Two recent journal papers: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevB.91.144511; http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.2178283

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