Quantum and Functional Materials for New Technologies: Bonds, Bands, and the Secrets They Keep


Developments in energy and information technologies could be a game changer for humanity by enabling faster and more secure communications, missiles and submarines with unparalleled surveillance architectures, powerful prediction and adaptation models for resilience to climate change and healthy ecosystems, and state-of-the-art medical imaging and drug design for healthcare. Achieving such lofty goals requires manipulating the chemistry of quantum and functional materials, which are the basis of advanced memory and computational platforms, to generate, store, process, and transmit coherent information. While this cross-disciplinary research is critical in enabling pathways to foreseeable technologies, a significant challenge in the field has been poor control over structural and electronic modification under the strict constraints required for manipulating spin dynamics by external stimuli, such as magnetic and electric fields and intense light pulses. This represents a significant opportunity as well as a materials chemistry grand challenge.

To address this grand challenge, the central goal of my research program is to develop a deep understanding of how chemical bonding and electronic structure result in targeted physical properties in quantum and functional materials and why such chemistry–property relationships exist—directly relevant to essential advances in integrating spins and photons into new electronic architectures. In this talk, I will share our progress on three research fronts: (i) establishing an efficient set of chemistry–property protocols to guide the design of multifunctional lanthanide materials that are both magnetically and optically responsive; (ii) developing a new path to design magnetic insulators and metals that host topological spin textures; and (iii) tuning competing magnetic exchange interactions to achieve strong quantum fluctuations at a macroscopic scale in real materials.