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Tuesday, 19 January 2021

A roadmap for near future quantum materials research

A review published today in IOP’s Journal of Physics: Materials draws an outline of the state of the art of quantum materials science and identifies the main challenges and opportunities in this emerging field of research. The paper is a work developed in collaboration by many international experts, including ICN2 researchers from the Theoretical and Computational Nanoscience group and the Physics and Engineering of Nanodevices group. ICN2 group leader Prof. Stephan Roche is co-corresponding author.

Quantum materials science is an emerging and promising research field at the intersection of condensed matter and cold-atom physics, material and device engineering, nanoscience, quantum information and computing. The term quantum materials arose at first in condensed-matter physics to refer to materials presenting strong electronic correlations or some type of electronic order, but has then broaden in meaning becoming a concept largely used across diverse fields of science and engineering. Thus, we can define as quantum materials all the versatile materials platforms that allow exploring emergent quantum phenomena and their potential application in future technologies.

An overview of the most recent developments in such a wide field and of the challenges that researchers are addressing, in order to better understand the behaviour of these new materials and harness their properties, is provided in a paper just published in IOP’s Journal of Physics: Materials. This “2021 quantum materials roadmap” collects the viewpoints of leading experts in each discipline, who offer a snapshot of the state of the art of the field and point out possible directions for future work and development.

This paper is the result of a collaboration between scientists from many institutes around the world, with particular involvement of a few ICN2’s researchers. ICREA Prof. Stephan Roche, leader of the ICN2 Theoretical and Computational Nanoscience group, is corresponding author together with Prof. Feliciano Giustino, from the Orden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences of the University of Texas at Austin (US). Group leader ICREA Prof. Sergio O. Valenzuela, Dr Adriana Figueroa, Dr Regina Galceran and Dr Marius Costache, from the ICN2 Physics and Engineering of Nanodevices group, are also among the authors of the review.

An important impulse to the investigation of emergent phenomena in novel materials platforms was certainly given by the discovery of graphene, a 2D material exhibiting extraordinary properties. This breakthrough opened new avenues for the study of unconventional transport properties of massless Dirac fermions, a class of particles that can be modeled using the equation which takes name after its author, physicist Paul Dirac. In the following (almost) two decades, many important predictions and discoveries have been made, enlarging the scope of this research. Phenomena such as spin-orbit coupling effect, spin Hall effect (and its quantum version), spin-orbit torque, skirmions and Mayorana fermions have been investigated, leading to the identification or fabrication of novel quantum materials.

Some of the most relevant materials that are analysed in the paper are: complex oxides, topological insulators and semimetals, superconductors, quantum spin liquids, twisted 2D layered crystals, spin torque materials, magnetic skyrmions, and hyperbolic materials. With an eye on the hot topic of quantum computing  ̶  one of the greatest challenges of current information technology research  ̶ , the review also covers superconductor- and semiconductor-based qubits, materials for topological devices based on Majorana modes, and non-equilibrium phenomena in quantum materials, which could be used to develop next-generation magnetic storage devices. Finally, the increasing importance and potential impact of modern data science techniques, such as machine and deep learning, on this field of research is discussed. Machine learning can be used to catalogue and search the large amount of complex data generated and stored in years of investigations and can be used to identify patterns in such data, as well as to speed up the processes of search for and design of suitable materials for given applications.

Without aspiring to be fully comprehensive of all the branches and aspects of quantum materials science, this review provides a panorama of this field of research and aims at inspiring future works and fostering the development of applications of such materials.


Reference article:

Feliciano Giustino, Jin Hong Lee, Felix Trier, Manuel Bibes, Stephen M Winter, Roser Valentí, Young-Woo Son, Louis Taillefer, Christoph Heil, Adriana I Figueroa, Bernard Plaçais, QuanSheng Wu, Oleg V Yazyev, Erik P A M Bakkers, Jesper Nygård, Pol Forn-Díaz, Silvano De Franceschi, J W McIver, L E F Foa Torres, Tony Low, Anshuman Kumar, Regina Galceran, Sergio O Valenzuela, Marius V Costache, Aurélien Manchon, Eun-Ah Kim, Gabriel R Schleder, Adalberto Fazzio and Stephan Roche, The 2021 quantum materials roadmap. 2021 J. Phys. Mater. 3 042006. DOI: 10.1088/2515-7639/abb74e