Professor Annica Black-Schaffer of the Department of Physics and Astronomy has been awarded a 2023 European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant for the project SUPERLAND. For the next five years, her research group will be studying the phenomenon of superconductivity to better understand it.
Superconductivity, a quantum state that allows an electric current to pass through a material without any electrical resistance, could be the solution to the problem of long-distance energy transmission. It is also a vital building block in many quantum computers.
“The problem is that we still can’t control when superconductivity occurs, meaning we can’t benefit from it effectively. In this project, we will be building up an understanding of how superconductivity can be created and enhanced using nanoscale inhomogeneity in materials. Normally, this would destroy superconductivity but, by working with inhomogeneity, which produces many electron states at zero energy, we hope to be able to create and control superconductivity,” explains Black-Schaffer.
Moiré pattern and phase crystals
This should be possible, as it is already known that superconductivity can occur when there is an accumulation of electron states at zero energy in, for example, moiré-patterned graphene, in which the moiré pattern produces superconductivity. In addition to the moiré pattern, among other things the project will also look at phase crystals, which are a very special quantum state.
“By working with the atomic structure of materials in this way, we hope to expand our understanding of superconductivity and create a new landscape for how we understand superconductivity,” says Black-Schaffer.
ERC Consolidator Grants are intended for researchers who have recently started a research group and wish to strengthen their role as a leader. Recipients should have the potential to be a global leader in their field. This year, 321 researchers from 37 different countries will share €657 million.
Black-Schaffer is a previous recipient of an ERC Starting Grant, an award for talented early-career scientists who have already produced excellent supervised work and show potential to be research leaders. Having recently been awarded a consolidator grant by the Swedish Research Council for her work on superconductors, she now follows this up with an ERC Consolidator Grant.
“Naturally, I’m delighted to receive this grant from the ERC that allows us to commit to this new project. Even though it’s different to our previous ERC grant, it is still recognition for the quality of our earlier work,” says Black-Schaffer.
European Research Council (ERC
The European Research Council (ERC) was established in 2007 as the first EU funding organisation for excellent researchers. Each year, the ERC awards grants to very best and most creative researchers. The ERC awards four different types of grant: Staring Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants.