ERC Advanced Grant for Bernhard Keimer

Research project will explore pathways towards low-loss electronics

April 22, 2024

Bernhard Keimer, Speaker of the MPGC and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, has won his second Advanced Grant of the European Research Council for a project that will harness magnetism for electronic devices with greatly reduced power consumption.

Electrons moving across today’s electronic devices generate heat as they collide with defects in the semiconducting materials, leading to an enormous loss of electric power. To reduce these losses, researchers are developing a new generation of devices in which the electrons are kept in place, and magnetic excitations (“magnons”) are used to transmit information. Most of the magnonic devices that have been explored to-date take advantage of ferromagnets where all of the electrons’ magnetic moments (“spins”) are aligned in the same direction. Once a magnon is created by flipping one of these spins, it propagates across the ferromagnet much more easily than charged currents in ordinary electronic devices, so that heating is greatly reduced. However, the comparatively low speed of ferromagnetic magnons and their sensitivity to external magnetic fields limit the performance of current magnonic devices.

The ERC project “SpecTera” will investigate devices based on antiferromagnets, where the direction of the electron spin alternates from one magnetic atom to another. Antiferromagnetic magnons are fast and insensitive to macroscopic magnetic fields, thus potentially enabling devices with clock speeds in the Terahertz range, but new methods are required to generate, guide, and detect these excitations. To address these challenges, SpecTera will take advantage of concepts, materials, and methods from a different research area – namely correlated-electron physics, where complex antiferromagnets have long served as a platform for quantum phenomena such as superconductivity. Under SpecTera, researchers will develop new concepts to confine and guide antiferromagnetic magnons, and use spectroscopic methods such as inelastic x-ray scattering to study their propagation on microscopic length scales. The control capabilities developed in this way may open a pathway to a new architecture of magnonic devices.

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