Superconductors at room temperature?

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Prof. Dr. Daniele Fausti (Bild: FAU/Georg Pöhlein)

Physicist at FAU receives just under two million euros in funding for research into quantum materials

Quantum materials change their properties when they interact with light. Optical cavities, for example, allow the electrical conductivity of quantum materials to be manipulated in a targeted manner. Physicists at FAU are investigating this enormous potential for electronics, energy storage and quantum computing. Their work has now received just under two million euros in funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for the coming four years.

“The funding will provide us with the necessary resources for researching thermodynamics of complex quantum materials in various cavity geometries,” says Prof. Dr. Daniele Fausti, Chair of Solid State Physics at FAU. In physics, an optical cavity refers to a narrow space between two mirrors in which atoms and molecules are forced to interact with light. By making specific changes to the electromagnetic surroundings, photon exchange and the properties of the quantum material can be controlled precisely without contact.

Together with Italian and Slovenian working groups, Daniele Fausti has very recently published an article in “Nature” that has generated a lot of interest: researchers demonstrated that tantalum sulfide, a quantum material with metallic properties, can be manipulated in such a way that it functions both as an electric conductor and as an insulator. The reversible transition between the insulating and metallic phase was achieved by mechanically adjusting the position of the mirrors surrounding the material. The possibility of modulating the conductivity of a material in this way holds unforeseen potential for high-precision sensors and controlling electronic processes.

This pioneering research is to be intensified in the funded project. “We want to pave the way for a functional design of optical cavities,” explains Fausti. “Our aim is to strengthen and control light-matter coupling in complex quantum solid state bodies.”

This would allow the researchers to produce an entirely new class of hybrid materials characterized by unconventional thermodynamics. The researchers hope to stabilize superconducting properties under conditions approaching atmospheric values. Until now, superconductors that conduct electric currents without losses had to be cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero, a process that is both complex and energy-intensive.

“Our project is certainly very ambitious,” admits Daniele Fausti. “All the more reason why I am so grateful to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for opening up excellent prospects for our research thanks to their generous support.”

About the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is an American foundation based in Palo Alto, California, that was founded in 2000 by the co-founder of Intel, Gordon E. Moore, and his wife Betty I. Moore. The aim of the foundation is to fund results-oriented projects that help to improve the quality of life of future generations. It focuses predominantly on scientific discovery, environmental conservation, and improvements in patient care. In 2022, the foundation provided a total of 167 million US dollars in funding to 68 different projects.

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Daniele Fausti

Chair of Solid State Physics

Phone: +49 9131 85 28401