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AMBER researcher secures prestigious ERC Starting Award

3 September 2020

Dr Alessandro Lunghi, Research Fellow at AMBER, the Trinity Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) and Trinity’s School of Physics, has been awarded prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant Awards worth €1.5 million in the latest round of results, which have been released today.

ERC Starting Grants are awarded annually to individual researchers to help them build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines, ERC Starting Grant awards are highly competitive.

Dr Alessandro Lunghi will lay the foundations for a major technological breakthrough with his project AI-DEMON: Artificial intelligence design of molecular nano-magnets and molecular qubits. Dr Lunghi will use novel machine-learning techniques in his research, disrupting current systems and methods used in the discovery of new materials which can be a slow and expensive process. With AI-DEMON, machine-learning computational methods will be the used to design new materials, in particular, new magnetic molecules for applications in quantum technology.

The 5-year research project addresses the challenge to make quantum computing and other quantum applications a reality, as Dr Lunghi explains,

“Quantum technologies are becoming increasingly attractive for computational applications, but the actual realisation of quantum devices is still an immense challenge. One of the reasons for this is that the quantum properties of materials only manifest themselves at very low temperatures. Magnetic molecules, for example, have been proposed in recent years for high-density information storage in quantum applications, but to utilise their quantum properties they require low-temperatures to operate. The main objective of AI-DEMON is to unravel the secrets of the quantum world, focusing first on molecular spins and how they interact with the surrounding microscopic world. We will then explore pathways to exploit this knowledge and design new molecules that can operate at higher temperatures. Understanding the details of these microscopic processes is of fundamental importance for the success of quantum technologies and, in the long-term, it will help to deliver all their potential”.

The ambitious AI-DEMON project will shed light on how fundamental quantum entities, such as electronic spins and molecular vibrations, interact with each other opening up possibilities to manifest these interactions through chemical synthesis. This project will enable a better, more comprehensive, understanding of the quantum world that surrounds us which may have consequences also for other branches of physics and chemistry.

Commenting on his success Dr Lunghi said:

“I have always been fascinated by the possibility of designing new materials starting from nothing more than the knowledge of the laws of physics. I am incredibly grateful to the European Research Council for this amazing opportunity. Thanks to this grant I will establish a new research group at Trinity College Dublin and pursue key technological goals related to the design of materials for quantum technologies. I would like to express my gratitude to the School of Physics, the CRANN Institute and the AMBER Research Centre for supporting my application and assisting me during the proposal preparation. I would also like to thank all those colleagues who have contributed to my research endeavors and in particular Prof. Sanvito, Prof. Totti and Prof. Sessoli for their never-ending support”.

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