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Smart Materials

Innovative technologies that make modern digital society possible are linked to breakthroughs in controlling the electrical properties of materials.To study the properties of new materials, intense THz radiation and high magnetic fields are essential. Sometimes the complex interaction between microscopic components causes something unusual to happen. With our instruments, scientists can access and control these states to see what happens exactly. Or they can use it to study the formation of molecular structures. The fundamental knowledge is used to push forward all kinds of new developments. Two examples:

Solving the mystery of high temperature superconductivity using strong magnets and intense laser light

Room temperature superconductivity – the perpetual flow of electrical current – remains a holy grail for physicists. In the 1980’s, high temperature superconductivity was discovered. The origin of the exceptionally high critical temperatures has remained elusive. It is strongly believed that the answer to this riddle lies in the investigation of the regime where superconductivity is strongest, but where the electronic ground state is least accessible. The combination of strong magnets and intense light has the potential to allow researchers to finally gain access to this terra incognita and to provide those answers. Once this has been achieved, the key ingredients for the design of yet more robust and higher-performance superconducting materials will be revealed, with room temperature superconductivity as the holy grail.

PhD student Femke Bangma explains her research on superconductivity (in Dutch)

Graphene and other 2D materials – next-generation information technology

Research with strong magnets and intense laser light uncovers the properties of new emergent materials. Key examples are two dimensional materials (such as graphene, the Nobel prize winning one-atom-thick layer of carbon), topological materials and novel types of superconductors. This is a crucial step towards the design and manufacturing of novel devices with entirely new functionalities or unique properties like an ultralow electric power consumption.

smart materials

Uli Zeitler about graphene (carbon)