Through its Early Researcher Awards (ERA) program, the Government of Ontario provides 5-year grants that support training activities for graduate and undergraduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research associates, and technicians, as well as youth outreach activities and conference travel. In 2022, Professors Adina Luican-Mayer and Jean-Michel Ménard received ERA funding to support their innovative research programs in quantum technologies.
Prof. Adina Luican-Mayer’s ERA project will characterize and control quantum defects in atomically thin quantum two-dimensional (2D) materials. Quantum effects are especially important in 2D materials due to their ultimate thinness; thus, there is strong interest to study and control them. Atomic scale defects in the layers of 2D materials, such as missing or substituted atoms, have a particularly strong effects on electronic and optical properties due to reduced electronic screening in low dimensions. Addressing individual atomic defects in a crystal, characterizing their electronic quantum states, and attempting to control them is only possible using local probe microscopes. Prof. Luican-Mayer’s lab possesses such state-of-art equipment, including a low temperature, ultrahigh vacuum scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Prof. Luican-Mayer’s team will use the STM to visualize the structure and quantum wave functions associated with individual defects as well the influence of different substrates and electric fields. Each defect can be understood as a quantum unit with tightly bound electronic states. Ultimately, Prof. Luican-Mayer wishes to deterministically position such defects, which would lead to a new platform for quantum simulation and sensing. This research is supported by the recent installation at uOttawa of a state-of-the-art metal organic chemical vapour deposition system, among few in the world that can grow wafer-scale 2D materials.
Few efficient techniques exist to control quantum systems and harness their exceptional properties. Prof. Jean-Michel Ménard’s ERA project aims to control quantum systems with high-field terahertz (THz) pulses. THz is electromagnetic radiation occurring between the near-infrared and microwaves. Most THz systems only allow access to a narrow spectral range up to 3 THz. Prof. Ménard aims to develop a new instrument to increase the higher limit of this range to 6 THz and use it to control quantum phenomena such as dynamical Bose-Einstein Condensates. These are macroscopic quantum states composed of half-light, half-matter quasi-particles in semiconductors. Prof. Ménard will utilize the ability of THz to manipulate these light-matter hybrid systems by storing a quantum state, which will lead to new applications in quantum sensing and computing. He will also combine strong THz fields and metasurface resonators to hybridize THz waves with molecules such as water. Metasurfaces are optical interfaces structured on the sub-wavelength scale, designed to achieve unique optical properties. In this work, they will enable strong THz-water coupling to lower the water splitting threshold, hence paving the way towards efficient green energy production. Prof. Ménard believes this to be a timely initiative because of its economical and environmental impacts.