Quantum Materials: the Technological Frontier

Quantum materials’ unique capabilities dramatically shape material properties

Quantum materials are substances in which quantum effects and fluctuations determine the balance between competing states, such as superconductivity, unusual forms of magnetism, and other physical qualities that are just beginning to be understood. Temperature, pressure, and magnetic and electric fields can tune transitions between these phases, with dramatic consequences for material properties. The Rice Center for Quantum Materials (RCQM), located at Rice University, studies the ways that quantum effects can dramatically shape material properties. While quantum materials are of deep, fundamental scientific interest, their incredible properties also have the potential to shape the technologies of the future from wireless devices to new magnetic imaging tools. The unique concentration of expertise within the RCQM makes possible rapid advancement in our scientific understanding and technological development. Through the growth of fundamental research, the Rice Center for Quantum Materials has become a hub for the future of quantum materials.

It is unusual for a single university to have such strong contributors in all aspects of the “materials feedback loop” which includes growth/synthesis/discovery, experimental characterization and modeling, and theoretical treatments with predictive power that help direct the next round of materials synthesis. The RCQM involves 19 faculty researchers and a number of parallel research programs. The Center brings together world-class scientists and engineers, with expertise including materials growth and discovery, theoretical condensed matter physics, quantum chemistry, atomic physics, quantum optics, nanoscience, semiconductor physics, and computational materials. The Center incubates new research collaborations and directions by organizing scientific workshops, supporting distinguished visitors, sponsoring postdoctoral scholars and student researchers, and developing international and domestic partnerships. Every age of history has been defined by materials; RCQM advances the next frontier through the study of quantum materials.

Current research includes:

  • Atom-Based Simulations: Researchers at the RCQM are conducting atom-based simulations of the Hubbard Model, a quantum materials model of the high temperature superconductors. Recently research teams have discovered a new material, TiAu, that is incredibly mechanically hard, while also having very unusual magnetic properties.

  • High Temperature Superconductivity: Copper, oxygen, and other elements combine together into a ceramic material. The surprising result is magnetism and competition between various states with vastly different properties, under the right circumstances, can result in perfect electrical conduction.

  • Theoretical Tools: Researchers at the RCQM are developing theoretical tools and descriptions of these rich, complex systems, both in and out of equilibrium. Such tools allow researchers to examine transitions between phases governed by quantum functions and to learn the emergent properties of materials with reduced dimensions and at the nanoscale.

  • Energy Applications: RCQM works to understand physical and chemical processes in quantum materials that may be relevant for energy applications. Through the study of such processes, the center is moving closer to sustainable and efficient energy solutions for the future.


At Rice University, a diverse, active, highly engaged group of researchers have come together to establish the Rice Center for Quantum Materials. Researchers share an appreciation for the amazing properties that can emerge in the systems comprising large numbers of constituents with strong interactions and dynamics set by quantum mechanics. Quantum materials can have amazingly rich and complex emergent properties that can be far from obvious. In some cases, we don’t even have the right mathematical language yet to describe the dynamics of these systems. Enumerating and understanding the possible phases of quantum matter is one of the main unsolved intellectual problems in physics. The resulting material properties are of basic scientific interest and at the same time can be promising for technological applications. This combination of deep fundamental science and potential technical impact is why the Rice Center for Quantum Materials studies these systems.

Website: www.rcqm.rice.edu


E. Morosan, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Materials Synthesis Investigator, 2014

A.H. Nevidomskyy, NSF CAREER and Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar awards, 2014

P. Dai, Thomson-Reuters, top 3000 most-cited researchers, 2014

G. Scuseria, Lise Meitner Lectureship Award (Hebrew University), 2014-2015