“The work carried out at the Max Planck-UBC Center for Quantum Materials”, says Anja Karliczek, “makes an important contribution to quantum physics research as well as to international exchanges between scientists”. During her visit to Canada, where, among other things, she met with her Canadian counterpart to launch a transnational programme of collaboration between science and industry, the German Federal Minister for Education and Research also paid a visit to the Max Planck Center in Vancouver. Bernhard Keimer, a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research and one of the co-directors of the Center, and Andrea Damascelli, a Professor at the University of British Columbia and another of the Center's co-directors, provided Karliczek with an overview of the results of the successful collaboration before going on to give her a tour of the Max Planck Center laboratories at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Findings, which could lead to practicable superconductors
Among other things, scientists at the Max Planck-UBC-U Tokyo Center for Quantum Materials are carrying out research into high-temperature superconductors, i.e., materials, which conduct electricity without loss at relatively high temperatures, but still well below freezing point. The researchers’ objective is to further develop these materials to the point where they lose their electrical resistance at practicable temperatures. In the course of their research, the scientists have already discovered, among other things, why some of the superconductors that are most promising for practical purposes lose this property above minus 135 degrees Celsius at most. Beyond that temperature, charge density waves destroy the arrangement of electrons required for superconductivity. In addition, the researchers have recently gained insights into symmetries between the electrons’ two organisational states. “As such”, says Bernhard Keimer, “we have achieved another step towards a better understanding of the interplay between competing electronic effects within the materials, and, therefore the prerequisite for practicable high-temperature superconductors”.
In addition, physicists at the Center have developed methods based on X-ray spectroscopy with which they can determine the chemical composition and electronic structure of the interfaces of complex materials with a high degree of precision and in a non-destructive manner. As Andrea Damascelli explains: “this kind of data can help us to optimise electronic switching elements, whose functionality is based on complex quantum phenomena, such as superconductivity or magnetism”.
Researchers at the Center have also modified X-ray processes such that they are able to determine the magnetic structure and dynamics of atomically thin layers. The findings made in this context enable them to manipulate the magnetic structures in a targeted manner. The fact that they can develop and control complex magnetic structures in this way will pave the way to novel spintronic components, which will exploit spin, a quantum property of electrons, for the transmission of electricity. In principle, spin-based charge transmission involves significantly less friction and resistance than charge transmission in traditional components and, therefore, opens up new possibilities in microelectronics.
Palpably more interest among young talent from North America and Japan
“That's consistent with the issues we're tackling in Germany”, says Karliczek: “The federal government of Germany will be systematically driving the development of quantum technologies with an independent programme, which is why I introduced the “Quantum Technologies from Fundamental Principles to Market” framework programme in the cabinet. During the current legislative period, the federal government of Germany will be making a total of around 650 million euro available for research and development in quantum technologies”.
In his presentation, Bernhard Keimer also addressed the importance of the Max Planck-UBC-U Tokyo Center as well as the other Max Planck Centers at world-leading research facilities for training junior scientists. “Since our Center has been in existence”, he says, “the interest in our International Max Planck Research School among outstandingly talented young scientists from North America and Japan has increased significantly”. The Max Planck Society’s International Max Planck Research Schools are institutions that provide structured training and excellent research conditions for doctoral students. For junior scientists, having carried out research at the Max Planck Center in Vancouver, also pays off in the long run. “Our Center has already produced several professors”, says Keimer.