A NEW state-of-the-art centre for designer quantum materials at St Andrews University was opened by Scotland’s minister for further education, higher education and science Shirley-Anne Somerville yesterday.

The £2 million centre, the first of its kind in the UK, puts Scotland at the forefront of international efforts to develop new “supermaterials” and the research could lead to the next generation of nano-electronic devices for quantum computing, sensors, lighting, power generation and storage.

Almost like building Lego structures with single atom building blocks, the designer quantum materials lab allows the make-up of a material to be changed layer by layer.

Loading article content

The facility has a molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) system which can custom engineer materials to be used in a host of applications.

University Principal Professor Sally Mapstone said: “This facility puts Scotland at the forefront of international efforts to develop new, smart materials which are integral to advances across a multitude of technological opportunities.

“It is one of only a handful of such centres worldwide and we hope it will offer Scottish and UK higher education and industry an unparalleled advantage in this rapidly developing field of exploration.”

Professor Graham Turnbull, head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, added: “We are very excited to open this facility, which launches a new era of materials research in St Andrews.

“The molecular beam epitaxy system will allow us to construct complex crystals atomic layer by atomic layer, or even make electronic devices that are a single atom thick.

“This will allow our research teams to study exotic properties of quantum matter and to engineer new materials that control superconductivity and how electrons and light interact.

“The research could lead to the next generation of nano-electronic devices for quantum computing, sensors, lighting, and power generation and storage.”