The Quantum Materials program is working towards bringing on the Quantum Age by integrating theory, materials synthesis, and experiments to explore and advance the frontiers of quantum physics. The program is structured around four main thrusts: quantum spin liquids, topological materials, the pseudogap phase of cuprate superconductors, and strange metals. To understand the working principles of such quantum matter, this team is developing new tools, new models, and new materials
RESEARCH AND SOCIETAL IMPACT HIGHLIGHTS
Probing quantum materials with the thermal Hall effect
The thermal Hall effect — or the appearance of a temperature gradient in a material when a magnetic field is applied — has emerged as a potentially powerful new probe of quantum materials. A collaborative Catalyst Fund project led by Quebec-based program Co-Director researcher Louis Taillefer and four program collaborators, who contributed both experimental and theoretical expertise, aims to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that can give rise to a thermal Hall effect in materials.
Determining a new quantum limit for electrons in “strange” metals
While physicists understand how most metals resist the passage of an electric current, there are some “strange” metals in which electrical resistance is very different in ways existing microscopic theories do not explain. CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar Brad Ramshaw (Cornell University) and program Co-Director Louis Taillefer (Université de Sherbrooke) measured the time between two electron collisions in a strange metal (the resistance) and made a surprising finding: the time measured between electron collisions varies with temperature. This dependence is given by Planck’s constant — a fundamental unit of the quantum world. This exciting finding reveals a new fundamental limit of electron behaviour and, further, may reveal a fundamental and universal truth about the universe and the way particles behave.
Building the foundation for new quantum technologies
Inspired by the discussions and interactions at Quantum Materials program meetings, and using the Catalyst Fund as a basis of support, Fellows Andrea Damascelli (University of British Columbia), Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Joshua Folk (University of British Columbia) developed Angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) infrastructure at the University of British Columbia’s Quantum Materials Lab. ARPES is the preeminent probe of quantum materials owing to its ability to directly visualize the electronic band structure and allow for a collaborative research effort to study the properties of stacked 2D quantum devices. This apparatus is critical as micron-scale devices have proved challenging to use, as only a handful of international user-based synchrotron facilities have this capability.
Designing an efficient new catalyst
Searching for high-efficiency, low-cost catalysts based on Earth-abundant elements, Fellows Liang Fu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Claudia Felser (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids) investigated the chemical properties of a moiré metal for hydrogen evolution reaction — the production of hydrogen through the splitting of water. They showed that the local shift of metallic atoms introduces a variation in surface hydrogen bonding strength and leads to the spatially dependent Gibbs free energy for hydrogen absorption. They predict that their designed catalyst can exceed the efficiency of platinum, which currently holds the current record.
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Path to Societal Impact
We invite experts in industry, civil society, healthcare and government to join fellows in our Quantum Materials program for in-depth, cross-sectoral conversations that drive change and innovation.
Government funders and policymakers, leaders at major research infrastructure facilities and universities, and industry, and CIFAR fellows in the Quantum Materials program are developing a national strategy to rebuild Canada’s capacity for materials research using neutron beams.
Area of focus:
- Developing a pan-Canadian, university-led framework for stewardship of Canada’s neutron beam infrastructure
1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2019
Condensed matter and quantum physics
Atomic, chemical and computational physics
Nanomaterials and materials engineering
Fellows & Advisors
CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.