Superconductivity is a macroscopic quantum state characterized by the disappearance of electrical resistance in materials at extremely low temperatures. Electrical currents can therefore flow through it without a constant drive being present. This is a promising property, especially for energy transmission. Because superconductivity generates very large magnetic fields, it is already being used in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners. Superconductivity also plays an important role in the race to develop quantum computers.
The physical processes behind it, however, are difficult for non-physicists to grasp. Stefan Kaiser, professor of Ultrafast Solid State Physics and Photonics at TU Dresden, describes the phenomenon as a “fascinating but physically complex problem.” His research area of high-temperature superconductors, in particular, initially seems rather odd to people unfamiliar with the subject.
Kaiser himself is fascinated by the complex field of science, the many unsolved questions and, above all, the great potential of these materials. “To understand superconductors, you have to understand how electrons combine at very low temperatures to form so-called “Cooper pairs” as superconducting charge carriers. In quantum mechanics, we can describe the totality of all these Cooper pairs by a wave function. However, to completely characterize this “wave”, we have had to use many indirect methods in which Cooper pairs are broken back into electrons. In the “T-Higgs” project, we are now using terahertz lasers to specifically induce the natural oscillations of this “wave”, the so-called Higgs oscillations. From the way the “wave” oscillates, we can now directly measure the properties of the superconductor with our new spectroscopy and thus gain a deeper understanding of how the superconductor behaves,” Kaiser explains.
For this ambitious project, the physicist received the ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council with a total volume of over two million euros for five years. The funding is part of the EU’s Horizon Europe program.
“In my career, I have been involved in many aspects of superconductivity and a significant part of my research deals in particular with optical control of superconductivity with fast ultrashort laser pulses. This includes light-induced superconductivity, which is possible for a short time even at room temperature. Here, the scientific community is now asking whether and how this light-induced non-equilibrium phenomenon is linked to superconductivity at equilibrium and how it can be characterized. The ERC grant will now allow me to develop Higgs spectroscopy as a new method and assemble a team that will answer this exciting question. We would like to establish the Higgs mode as a new criterion for superconductivity. In addition, we will apply the new Higgs spectroscopy to many important types of superconductors and also use it to directly identify and fully characterize new superconductors that are still unknown,” Kaiser explains his project plans.
The European Research Council is part of the EU’s framework program for research and innovation entitled “Horizon Europe”. It funds individual, excellent scientists. As part of the “Consolidator Grant” funding line, projects are funded with 2 million euros (plus up to another million euros for certain additional costs) over five years. 313 researchers are currently benefitting from the program, 61 of whom in Germany. Recently, further TUD researchers were able to win over the European Research Council (ERC) with their outstanding work and secure grants in various funding programs. Among them are Dr. Erika Covi from NaMLab and Prof. Michael Siewke from the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD).
NaMLab researcher secures ERC Starting Grant
Technology permeates our lives and our daily routines: a multitude of smart, interconnected devices on the edge of the grid help us to perform our daily tasks. However, to meet the stringent power and memory constraints of these devices and enable them to learn and collaborate from their experiences, a radical paradigm shift beyond current Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology is required.
In MEMRINESS, Memristive Neurons and Synapses for Neuromorphic Edge Computing, Dr. Erika Covi and her team will exploit the physical properties of emerging memristive devices to develop neurons and synapses that provide the necessary brain-inspired primitives to create low-power, memory-efficient smart edge devices that can learn online and collaboratively. The newly developed neurons and synapses will be validated in a hardwire spiking neural network and in three collaborative scenarios of increasing complexity.
The European Research Council is supporting this groundbreaking research project at NaMLab. ERC Starting Grants support excellent researchers at the stage in their career where they are establishing their own independent research team or program. Dr. Covi will receive the five-year grant of up to €1.5 million to conduct her research.
Fighting tumors with macrophages: ERC Proof of Concept Grant for Prof. Michael Sieweke
High hopes are placed on new cell therapies to fight cancer but existing treatments are not effective for solid tumors. Prof. Michael Sieweke and his group at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) at TU Dresden want to overcome this problem by using macrophages, specific immune cells that can infiltrate and attack solid tumors. The project was just funded by the Proof of Concept Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), a translational project that grew out of the basic research of Prof. Michael Sieweke’s ERC advanced grant aiming at rejuvenating macrophages and fighting diseases of old age, including cancer.