Quantum materials, a broad class of materials with novel electronic properties and pronounced quantum-mechanical behavior has attracted great interest from the scientific community in recent years. In these materials, the collective behavior of electrons leads to many novel, often unexpected, properties, such as transport of electrical current without resistance and the creation of emergent particles with properties different from any known elementary particle.
New discoveries in quantum materials could lead to revolutionary applications in electronics, computing, energy, technology, medical devices and more.
Uncovering how exotic electronic properties of quantum materials come about is what excites both experimentalists and theorists. For the past several years, our Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems Initiative has established an integrated research program in this burgeoning field. We focus on a relatively small group of leading scientists and research groups in quantum materials, providing them with the resources and freedom to explore uncertain research directions and opportunities to exchange ideas and foster collaborations. Discoveries made by these researchers, and the collaborations among them, are striking.
The achievements in 2017 alone are remarkable.
One example comes from physicist Peter Abbamonte at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Professor Abbamonte and his collaborators developed a new scientific instrument called momentum-resolved electron energy-loss spectroscopy, or M-EELS, which enabled them to confirm the existence of a new form of matter, excitonium – a macroscopic quantum phenomenon, much like superconductivity. It is made up of quasiparticles called excitons, which are a combination of an electron escaped from an atom and the hole left behind from the electron. Several other experiments published in 2017 shed light on new quantum states of matter and how this field could alter the world as we know it today.
Experts who assessed the impact of the initiative to date said: “Following the demise of fundamental research at industrial laboratories such as Bell Labs and IBM, the U.S. had fallen behind quantum materials research, particularly in the synthesis of new materials. In a remarkably short period of time, EPiQS has begun to reverse this trend and has already made a unique and highly visible impact on the field.”