A stage for electron performances

A stage for electron performances

Electrical conductors that carry current with no resistive losses when cooled to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, catalysts that facilitate chemical reactions in the desired direction and even enable them to take place in the first place, and substances with extraordinary magnetic properties: Researchers at the Max Planck-UBC Center for Quantum Materials dedicate themselves to materials whose potential for engineering applications results from the quantum nature of the materials’ particles.

Quantum effects determine the collective behaviour of the electrons in zero-resistance superconductors, selective catalysts, and magnetic compounds. They can also lead to more exotic states, however, in which electrons are mobile like particles in a liquid crystal, and simultaneously exhibit characteristics of crystalline structures.

Scientists in the Solid State Spectroscopy department headed by Bernhard Keimer from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart and the Advanced Materials and Process Engineering Laboratory (AMPEL) headed by George A. Sawatzky at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, in particular are expanding their collaboration at the Max-Planck-UBC Center. Moreover, additional groups from the University of British Columbia, as well as scientists from ten Max Planck institutes, including the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden and the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, will be participating in the collaborative efforts. “The theoretical interests and the experimental methods that the research partners are partly developing themselves complement one another very advantageously for all of the participating institutions”, says Bernhard Keimer, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research.

Physicists, chemists, and materials scientists at the Center have paid particular attention in their research to transition metal oxides, as many quantum effects, such as unconventional superconduction or electronic liquid crystals, occur in these materials, and excite the scientists’ curiosities. Moreover, they are not simply studying these phenomena in the interiors of their samples, but also at their surfaces and interfaces to various chemical compounds. These are, in a manner of speaking, stages for unusual performances by electrons, which are often different at the surfaces and boundaries from their behaviour in the interior of a material. Electronic surface phenomena are very important particularly for applications in electronics and catalysis.

Along with the research that presently involves several especially active topics among physicists, the Center has achieved an additional goal to which the Max Planck Society and the University of British Columbia are jointly committed. “With the Max-Planck-UBC Center for Quantum Materials, we have created a platform that not only brings together the expertise of leading materials researchers from Canada and Germany, but in particular supports and trains junior scientists from both countries as well”, said Peter Gruss, the former President of the Max Planck Society, with regard to the center's inauguration.

Picture: George Sawatzky, Co-Director of the Max Planck Center, at UBC in Vancouver. © dpa/MPG

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