ERC Starting Grants Obtained by two IFIMAC Researchers

Dr. Johannes Feist and Dr. Eduardo Lee, IFIMAC Researchers have been awarded two separated Starting Grants from the The European Research Council (ERC).

The ERC Starting Grants will enable early-career researchers throughout Europe to set up their own research teams and pursue ground-breaking ideas. The funding therefore contributes to supporting a new generation of top researchers in Europe. ERC grants are awarded to researchers of any nationality based in, or willing to move to, Europe. In this year’s competition, researchers of 42 nationalities received the funding and 19 of them will be hosted in Spain.

The grants are awarded under the excellent science pillar of Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme.

Dr. Johannes Feist, has been awarded 1,5 million euros through the ERC Starting Grants Funding Scheme, in the domain of Physical Sciences and Engineering, to work on the topic: Modification of Molecular structure Under Strong Coupling to confined Light modES.

Johannes Feist
Johannes Feist – IFIMAC Researcher.

The project, (MMUSCLES), aims to understand and make use of the effect of confined light modes on the molecular structure of matter. Under certain conditions, photonic structures such as cavities can enhance the coupling between light and molecules so strongly that their states start to mix and it becomes impossible to speak of light and molecular states separately. The material is then characterized by hybrid light-matter states that combine the properties of both ingredients. This effect even appears in “vacuum”, when no external light source is present. It turns out that in this limit of “strong coupling”, the internal structure and dynamics of the molecules are also changed, which can in turn affect, for example, chemical reactions. The ultimate goal of the project is thus to develop ways to use these modifications to change molecular structure and, for example, achieve a “photonic catalyst” that works without photons, i.e., without an external light source.

Johannes Feist started his scientific career in his hometown of Vienna, Austria, where he obtained his PhD in 2009, working on correlated electron motion in helium atoms driven by ultrashort laser pulses under the guidance of Prof. Joachim Burgdörfer at Vienna University of Technology. Afterwards, he obtained the three-year ITAMP postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he started working within the fields of nanophotonics and nanplasmonics. In 2012, he moved to UAM as a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Francisco J. García Vidal at the Department of Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics. In that capacity, he started to focus on the strong coupling between organic molecules and photonic modes in nanostructures, a project for which he obtained additional support through a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant in 2013.

Dr. Eduardo Lee, has been awarded 1,5 million euros through the ERC Starting Grants Funding Scheme, in the domain of Physical Sciences and Engineering, for his proposal: A bottom-up topological superconductor based on quantum dot arrays. (TOPOQDot)

Eduardo Lee
Eduardo Lee – IFIMAC Researcher.

In recent years, topological materials have become a topic of great interest within the condensed matter physics community. While these materials are similar to ordinary materials in the bulk, they display states localized at edges and defects that have very peculiar properties. Remarkably, topological superconductors are associated with edge/defect states known as Majorana modes, which hold great promise for quantum computation applications. This is due to the fact that quantum information can be stored and manipulated in a non-local fashion using Majorana modes, therefore making it long-lived by protecting it from local sources of decoherence. Even though topological superconductors are not readily available in nature, theory predicts that they can be artificially engineered in the laboratory. Intense experimental efforts are being currently undertaken in different laboratories around the world to engineer this type of material, and to unambiguously identify it. TOPOQDot aims to investigate a yet unexplored approach based on semiconductor quantum dots to realize a 1D topological superconductor. This approach promises to circumvent typical issues related to defects and inhomogeneities that are ever-present in real-life materials, by providing knobs to compensate for their effect.

Eduardo Lee obtained his PhD in physics from EPF Lausanne for the thesis “Scanning photocurrent microscopy of carbon nanostructures” developed at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany. He then moved to the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in Grenoble, France as a postdoctoral fellow, partially funded by a Marie Curie Fellowship. After that, he spent a year at the Institut Neel in Grenoble as a postdoc, before finally joining IFIMAC as a young researcher. His main research interests are focused on devices based on low-dimensional semiconductors. In particular, he is interested in studying their electronic properties as well as potential new device functionalities for applications in quantum information. Experimentally, this is accomplished by means of low temperature electron transport measurements. At present, his research is directed towards studying the interaction of nanoscale semiconductors and superconductors.

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