New center awarded $12.6M by DOE


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A team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering was awarded an Energy Frontier Research Center by the Department of Energy (EFRC). 

The new center is highly-collaborative spanning three institutions, with additional team members and leadership from University of Illinois-Chicago and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. On campus, the program draws together experts in quantum information science, physics and materials science from the lllinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST), from the Physics Department, Materials Science and Engineering, and the Materials Research Laboratory. 

The collaboration was awarded for their proposal “Energy Frontier Research Center for Quantum Sensing and Quantum Materials (QSQM).” The center aims to develop and apply nontrivial quantum sensing methods to measure and unravel mysteries associated with three families of quantum materials. These families are exotic superconductors, topological crystalline insulators, and strange metals. Daniel Shoemaker, professor of materials science and engineering, will lead synthesis efforts to grow high-quality crystals of the three families of materials in the Center.

“What is exciting is that this center gives us a chance to create some really new quantum measurement techniques for studying energy-relevant quantum materials,” said Peter Abbamonte, center director and Fox Family Professor in the Physics Department at Illinois.

To study these unusual kinds of materials, the team will develop multiple new measurement techniques including a scanning qubit microscope, a two-electron Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) spectrometer, and an instrument for x-ray nonlinear optics. Such techniques, which will leverage several premier facilities at DOE’s national laboratories, will lead to a deeper understanding of materials and seed future advances in quantum sensing and measurement. 

“We often get trapped in the cycle of using the same old measurements—not because we don't need new kinds of information or knowledge, but because developing techniques is expensive and time consuming. This EFRC will allow us to push the envelope of quantum measurement by tackling bigger problems than would be possible with traditional, single-PI funding.”

The Center for Quantum Sensing and Quantum Materials will be housed within IQUIST, which is a cross-disciplinary initiative within the MRL focused on accelerating quantum research, education and technology development. It is also a core partner in the Chicago Quantum Exchange.

This new program is one of 10 centers funded though the EFRC program this year. 

The EFRC program was established by the DOE’s Office of Basic Research to help meet the world’s growing need for energy. These EFRCs take advantage of powerful tools to characterize, understand, model, and manipulate matter, and train future researchers in the field of energy science. 

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This story was published July 13, 2020.