back to news May 15, 2017

Moving Toward a “Quantum Leap”

Yuan-Ming Lu, assistant professor of physics, studies properties of solid-state materials using quantum mechanics and statistical physics to better understand how electrons organize themselves in complicated materials. His new five-year, $477,294 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award will support his research on developing new ways to detect and design topological orders.

In exotic phases of quantum systems, ordinary electrons behave as if they were divided into fractions of their original mass and charge. Due to their quantum properties, these emerging particles, called anyons, could be used to implement fault-tolerant “topological quantum computation.”

“While topological orders are highly desirable for their potential applications, there are two longstanding obstacles in achieving control of anyons: They are hard to detect, and they are quite rare in nature to begin with,” Lu says. “This award will allow me to explore new ways to fill in these gaps. I will exploit magnetic impurities ubiquitous in real materials to identify a ‘smoking gun’ signature to detect anyons in a magnetic system.

“Although quantum computing won’t be available any time soon, information processing in a topological quantum computer as we know it will achieve a whole new level of computational power and accuracy. The award will also help me explore recently discovered topological insulators that host robust metallic surface states despite an insulating bulk. These may be important in spintronics and quantum information."

Additionally, the NSF CAREER Awards fund educational outreach. In Lu’s case, he will be working with students at Innis Elementary School through the Center for Emergent Materials’ ongoing Scientific Thinkers Program.

“This is a great collaborative effort of teachers and Ohio State students teaching inquiry-based science. It shows youngsters to enjoy science and gain confidence in their abilities as students and scientific thinkers,” Lu said.

Lu, who joined the department in 2015, received his PhD from Boston College and was a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.