Modern physics of condensed phases and material science focuses on substances with novel electric, magnetic, optical and thermal properties. The functionality of those compounds is highly unpredictable either due to strong electron correlation (magnetism, ferroelectricity, charge order etc) or due to extremely complicated structure (huge unit cells of intermetals and oxides, composites), and more often, due to both reasons. The current Programme offers three approaches to facilitate better understanding of the complex quantum matter and its design – better synthesis and control, state-of-the-art experimental (analytical) techniques and novel theoretical methods.
Spin is a fundamental property of an elementary particle that is described properly only by laws of quantum mechanics. Despite the deep quantum nature spin has practical implications in material science. Nuclear magnetic resonance uses nuclear spin as a local probe of structure and dynamics of materials at the atomic level. Permanent magnets and giant magnetoresistive effects are caused by coherent action of many electron spins. Even more, in multiferroics it is possible to reorient the spins with electric field. This reduces the amount of Joule heating of write operations in magnetic memories. Magneto-electric interaction between spin and polarization waves in multiferroics is a cornerstone for new THz devices. Spin plays an important role in pairing of charge carriers in high-Tc superconductors. The driving force of the exploration of quantum phase transitions in materials with strong electron correlations and Bose-Einstein condensation of magnons (spin waves) has been superconductivity and magnetism. Among strongly correlated electron materials the heavy fermion systems have been the source of unconventional superconductivity, novel magnetism and hidden order.
The research programme on new spin materials aims at studying fundamental physical phenomena in materials that may have high-tech applications. Spin materials are studied with nuclear magnetic resonance, THz and Raman spectroscopy methods, all contributing to the understanding of structure and structure-function relationship. The quantum nature of material properties requires application of high magnetic fields and low temperatures.
NMR spectroscopy is based on high-precision measurement of nuclear spin energy levels in a magnetic field. Fine structure of the spectra depends on local interactions, generated by chemical bond and other nuclei. Different magnetic field strength and various temperatures allow for increased sensitivity and/or to alter the states and functionality of the sample at hand.
Using NMR as an analytical tool in chemistry, biology and solid state physics forms an essential part of the program. Structural analyses and control of syntheses of enantiomers, diastereoisomers and other sophisticated molecules is addressed as an issue of basic chemistry. The goal of the molecular biology part is to determine protein mobility and interactions, regarding also quantum- and tunnelling effects, and also to develop studies on membrane and transport proteins (Cf also Bioenergetics). High accuracy cell metabolite measurement will be used for malignancy diagnostics in collaboration with central hospital.
In solid state physics the programme is strongly coupled and quintessential to both the spin materials programme (see above) and to the energy materials’ programme (see below). Towards that end super fast rotation techniques at extreme temperatures will be developed. High resolution and sensitive measurements at temperatures ranging from 10°K (new spin materials) up to 1200°K (energy materials) open qualitatively new possibilities for detailed study of the structure and dynamics of molecular interactions and facilitate the development of new technological materials.
Research of energy materials is of utmost importance to the energy production and storing in the next generation fuel cells, Li-ion batteries and supercapacitors. The programme focuses on solid oxide fuel cells making use of our unique capacity and competences to do optical, electrochemical impedance, thermogravimetric measurements of those compounds, to say nothing about solid state NMR studies at extremely low (10°K ) and high (1200°K) temperatures.
We are also active in the development of commercially usable SOFC elements with our commercial partner Elcogen Ltd.