Professor Pertti Hakonen of the Aalto University Low Temperature Laboratory has been awarded ERC Advanced Grant funding worth € 2.4 million for his study ”Quantum devices in topological matter: carbon nanotubes, graphene, and novel superfluids”, combining the technologies of nanophysics and ultra-low materials for looking for and creating new quantum systems. The research is groundbreaking, as these two fields have never been combined in a similar fashion.
"We are studying the impact of interfaces and foreign atomic layers on the behaviour of quantum systems. In a quantum system, in which the wave nature of matter in accordance with quantum mechanics comes out clearly, the impact of microscopic interfaces can be very unpredictable, and lead to interesting phenomena. We hope to find new superfluid systems, among other things", Professor Hakonen says.
Superfluidity means a characteristic in which the current resistance of matter disappears in a sufficiently low temperature and the liquid flow is able to move forward without dissipation.
"We are especially interested in graphene: can superfluidity continue past one solid atomic layer? In addition, we want to investigate how a carbon nanotube affects superfluidity when its diameter is so immeasurably small. The direction of the research is fascinating, as we are the first to put graphene and nanotubes in superfluids."
Points of contact with other phenomena
The study that got the ERC grant is a synthesis of all of Professor Hakonen's previous research experience and know-how.
"I have worked in many different fields. I have researched the physics of ultra-low temperatures, nanophysics, carbon nanotubes, and in the past seven years, graphene. Now I get to combine all of these."
In accordance with ERC funding principles, the research is basic research, but Hakonen says that it is always possible to find points of contact with other phenomena and also to get information on other systems.
"For instance, a graphene membrane with a small hole in it could produce an ultra-sensitive rotating sensor for studying other phenomena of physics, such as the theory of relativity."
The ERC funding received by Hakonen supports for its part, participation in the EU's Graphene Flagship project, in which applications related to graphene are funded, and ways of manufacturing graphene are developed.
Reaching ultra-low temperatures is difficult
Professor Hakonen's research requires devices that make it possible to reach very low temperatures. "With our equipment we can reach a temperature significantly below 1 millikelvin. Only one equivalent modern nuclear cooling device exists in the world in addition to ours."
Generally achieving low temperatures requires liquid helium, but the rise in its price has made the study challenging.
"We have developed a device in cooperation with BlueFors Cryogenics, with which we can reach the required temperature without liquid helium. Our basic philosophy is to develop equipment that others do not have, with which we can conduct top research", Professor Hakonen observes.
ERC funding for four other projects in the Aalto University application round in 2014
Professor Antti Oulasvirta has received an ERC Starting Grant of € 1.5 million for his study to improve user interfaces with the help of mathematical science and psychology. Read more http://www.aalto.fi/fi/current/news/2015-01-19/
Professor Sebastiaan van Dijken has been granted ERC Proof of Concept funding worth € 150,000 for the commercialisation of a new generation of memory technology. Read more http://sci.aalto.fi/fi/current/news/2015-04-02-003/
Researcher Jani Oksanen, Doctor of Science (Technology), has received ERC Starting Grant funding worth € 2 million for research in thermophotonics. Read more http://sci.aalto.fi/fi/current/news/2015-05-19-002/
Professor Emma Master has received ERC Consolidator grant for research aimed at finding proteins and enzymes suitable for modifying natural resources. Emma Master, a professor at the University of Toronto, is the first recipient of ERC funding to come from another university and who wants to come to Aalto University to conduct research. Read more http://chem.aalto.fi/fi/current/news/2015-05-25-005/
The European Research Council (ERC) provides funding for top researchers and their research groups for ground breaking research. The funding is directed at researchers at different stages in their careers with no restrictions for age or nationality.
Professor Pertti Hakonen
School of Science
Department of Applied Physics, Low Temperature Laboratory
tel. +358 50 344 2316