Columbia to Continue Creating Programmable Quantum Materials

The U.S. Department of Energy renews Columbia’s Energy Frontier Research Center with a four-year $12.6 million grant.

Ellen Neff
August 26, 2022

Columbia University quantum researchers have successfully recompeted for an Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) grant, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week. Columbia’s current EFRC on Programmable Quantum Materials (Pro-QM), established in 2018, will receive $12.6 million over the next four years to advance new materials, tools, and physics that enable the on-demand creation and control of quantum phases. 

To develop new quantum devices, including quantum computers, sensors, and networks, researchers need to be able to control the quantum properties of materials and light, areas of research with a long history of breakthroughs at Columbia. 

In addition to DOE funding, New York State is also providing support to the center with a matching commitment of up to an additional $500,000 from Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR)

Dmitri Basov, Higgins Professor and Chair of Physics at Columbia, will continue to lead the center, which brings together theoretical and experimental scientists as well as engineers at Columbia, the University of Washington, and Brookhaven National Laboratory. 

“The whole is very much greater than the sum of its parts at the Pro-QM EFRC,” said Basov. “During the first cycle of funding, we have been getting better and better at creating quantum phase on demand. Now, we have even more ambitious plans to combine new techniques and tools with unique materials developed in the first grant to make transformative impacts on quantum science and technology.”

"Now, we have even more ambitious plans to combine new techniques and tools with unique materials developed in the first grant to make transformative impacts on quantum science and technology."

Dmitri Basov

Research at the center is organized across two scientific “thrusts” and two fabrication and characterization “themes.” The University of Washington’s Xiadong Xu leads the thrust on programmable topology with Columbia’s Xiaoyang Zhu guiding work on programmable quantum interfaces. Themes center on material design and heterostructure engineering, led by Cory Dean at Columbia and Alexandra Velian at the University of Washington, and on multi-modal quantum imaging, led by Jim Schuck at Columbia and Mengkun Liu at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University. Michal Lipson, Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia, will continue to serve as chair of the executive committee.

The center has produced more than 115 scientific publications between 2018 and 2022. In the most recent work, for example, Schuck’s groups developed a microscopic color-converter for lasers that has the potential to create pairs of entangled photons for experiments and quantum optics applications. Unique materials developed by the center, including a crystal called chromium sulfide bromide synthesized in the lab of Columbia’s Xavier Roy, may facilitate wide-ranging quantum networks. 

In addition to advancing quantum science, the center is particularly committed to the development of young scientists, with sponsored postdoctoral fellowships and concerted efforts to bring early-career faculty into leadership positions. New assistant professors involved with the renewed center include Ana Asenjo-Garcia, Milan Delor, James McIver, and Raquel Queiroz at Columbia as well as Washington’s Matthew Yankowitz and Alexandra Velian.

“Traditionally, molecular chemists like myself don’t work side-by-side with condensed matter physicists, but this interface creates enormous potential for scientific breakthroughs,” said Velian. “The Pro-QM sets a bold vision for a quantum future. Working alongside this team is inspiring, and a phenomenal opportunity to contribute a unique atomistic perspective to a rapidly evolving, extremely exciting scientific space.”