Kou and Pfaff receive DURIP funding to enable new materials for superconducting devices

2/27/2023 3:45:01 PM Amber Rose

<em>Angela Kou</em>
Angela Kou

Physics Assistant Professors Angela Kou and Wolfgang Pfaff have recently received a Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The DURIP program is for “the acquisition of major equipment by U.S. institutions of higher education to augment current or develop new research capabilities to support research in technical areas of interest”. Kou and Pfaff will receive $364,000 for their project “Deposition system for the next generation of superconducting materials for quantum devices.”

Current superconducting devices rely predominantly on the use of niobium and aluminum films for quantum devices such as qubits, quantum-limited amplifiers, and transducers. Despite being well-developed, current superconductors have properties that are not optimal. For example, the temperature at which a metal transitions from a normal metal to a superconductor is extremely low, meaning the temperature at which experiments can be done will also be extremely low. Recent materials progress has shown possible benefits of using alternative superconductors such as tantalum or titanium nitride.  

<em>Wolfgang Pfaff</em>
Wolfgang Pfaff

“This equipment is for us to try different kinds of superconductors that will have a higher transition temperature so we can try to operate at higher temperatures and look for new kinds of superconductors that can be used to build qubits and other kinds of circuits,” said Kou.

Kou and Pfaff plan to purchase a sputtering system that is capable of depositing single- and multi- element superconducting thin films at high temperatures and a residual gas analyzer for maintaining the cleanliness of the deposition chamber. The way the materials are made is by sputtering metals onto a substrate such as sapphire or silicone. The sputtering system will enable the fabrication of many different types of superconductors and at higher temperatures. The new equipment will be housed in the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL).

Pfaff commented that he is “really excited about this direction because it is a very basic science question that could also have really important implications for something applied, namely the future of quantum computing devices.”