ERC Advanced Grant for Bernhard Keimer

Research project will explore pathways towards low-loss electronics

April 11, 2024

Bernhard Keimer, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, has won his second Advanced Grant of the European Research Council for a project that will harness magnetism for electronic devices with greatly reduced power consumption.

Electrons moving across today’s electronic devices generate heat as they collide with defects in the semiconducting materials, leading to an enormous loss of electric power. To reduce these losses, researchers are developing a new generation of devices in which the electrons are kept in place, and magnetic excitations (“magnons”) are used to transmit information. Most of the magnonic devices that have been explored to-date take advantage of ferromagnets where all of the electrons’ magnetic moments (“spins”) are aligned in the same direction. Once a magnon is created by flipping one of these spins, it propagates across the ferromagnet much more easily than charged currents in ordinary electronic devices, so that heating is greatly reduced. However, the comparatively low speed of ferromagnetic magnons and their sensitivity to external magnetic fields limit the performance of current magnonic devices.

The ERC project “SpecTera” will investigate devices based on antiferromagnets, where the direction of the electron spin alternates from one magnetic atom to another. Antiferromagnetic magnons are fast and insensitive to macroscopic magnetic fields, thus potentially enabling devices with clock speeds in the Terahertz range, but new methods are required to generate, guide, and detect these excitations. To address these challenges, SpecTera will take advantage of concepts, materials, and methods from a different research area – namely correlated-electron physics, where complex antiferromagnets have long served as a platform for quantum phenomena such as superconductivity. Under SpecTera, researchers will develop new concepts to confine and guide antiferromagnetic magnons, and use spectroscopic methods such as inelastic x-ray scattering to study their propagation on microscopic length scales. The control capabilities developed in this way may open a pathway to a new architecture of magnonic devices.

Bernhard Keimer received his Ph.D. in 1991 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After serving as a professor at Princeton University, he was appointed to his present position as Director of the MPI for Solid State Research in 1998. He has received a number of prestigious awards including the Gottfried-Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2011, and the Kamerlingh Onnes Prize in 2022. His first ERC Advanced Grant, awarded in 2015, enabled the development of a unique instrument for inelastic x-ray scattering at the PETRA-III synchrotron in Hamburg.

About the European Research Council

The ERC, established by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organization for frontier research. It provides long-term funding for excellent investigators and their teams to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk/high-gain research. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants, and Synergy Grants. In the current application round for Advanced Grants, 1829 research proposals reached the ERC, 13.9 percent of which were approved. A total funding volume of €652 million will be awarded to 255 grantees for projects in 19 EU member states and associated countries.

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