Aarhus University, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Research field

Physics and Nanotechnology

Contact info

Email: ulstrup@phys.au.dk

Research leader

Søren Ulstrup

Assistant Professor, PhD, born 1987

Project title

Direct measurement of quantum states in functional atomically thin materials

What is your project about?

The devices for future technologies will be built from two-dimensional materials. These are characterized by having a thickness of a single atomic layer. It is possible to induce completely new and surprising properties such as superconducting states by stacking different atomic layers and controlling the mutual twist angle between atoms. These extremely thin materials will therefore be able to conduct an electric current without any form of energy loss. The goals of the project are to establish why these states emerge and to investigate the effect of driving an electric current through the materials. This will reveal how the properties change under realistic operating conditions.

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

My fascination of nanotechnology started during my undergraduate studies. Here, I found that by combining knowledge from physics, chemistry, biology and math it was possible to realize the dream of constructing materials “bottom-up” using the smallest building blocks in nature. During my graduate studies and career as a researcher I have grown up with amazing new techniques that have transformed the methods to synthesize and measure nanomaterials. The level of design freedom in the field is comparable to playing with Legos. It is only imagination that limits the possible structures that can be built.

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

Knowledge about what actually happens with the quantum states in two-dimensional materials driven by an electric current is very limited. It turns out that this situation is difficult to model using theoretical methods, and relevant experimental techniques have not been accessible. I have developed an instrument at Aarhus University that focuses the intense radiation from the particle accelerator ASTRID2 down to the nanoscale and uses this radiation to take direct snapshots of the quantum states in nanomaterials. The project will realize the full potential of this instrument and use it to extract the electronic properties of atomically thin materials integrated in electronic devices.

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What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

The project will lead to new fundamental discoveries of properties in advanced materials. This is the key to develop future electronic and optical devices that will transform electronics, energy conversion and information technologies. The project will contain an element of method development and collaboration with some of the biggest experimental facilities in USA and Europe, including modern light sources such as the new particle accelerator MAX IV in Sweden. This project will contribute to the use of these new experimental possibilities and train researchers to conduct experiments that can reveal phenomena that have been out of reach so far. 

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

It is a great honor and a motivating boost to receive a Sapere Aude grant. It makes it possible to consolidate my research group with a PhD student and a postdoc. Together, we will initiate activities that ensure our position at the front of a highly competitive research field. The grant is therefore vital for my career and it provides the best conditions for attracting additional funding from the European Research Council in the future. 

Background and personal life

I live in Aarhus with my wife Nina and our dog Cleo in a house from the 1920s. There are a lot of big and small project that can divert attention in an old house with a big garden. I appreciate running and try to participate in half marathon races as often as possible. It means a lot to me to travel. I especially enjoy going back to my old neighborhood in Berkeley in California both when work calls and a bit of vacation is needed.

City of your current residence

Aarhus

High school

Mathematics student from Hasseris Gymnasium