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Mapping quantum structures with light to unlock their capabilities

Quantum combs illuminated: Upon light excitation (red and yellow beams), electrons are discovered to form comb-like wave patterns. The narrow width of the comb lines enables detecting (illuminated peaks) super-resolution images of quantum-material properties - much sharper than earlier efforts. Credit: Markus Borsch, Quantum Science Theory Lab

A new tool that uses light to map out the electronic structures of crystals could reveal the capabilities of emerging quantum materials and pave the way for advanced energy technologies and quantum computers, according to researchers at the University of Michigan, University of Regensburg and University of Marburg.

"Quantum materials could have an impact way beyond quantum computing," said Mackillo Kira, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, who led the theory side of the new study. "If you optimize quantum properties right, you can get 100% efficiency for light absorption."

Silicon-based solar cells are already becoming the cheapest form of electricity, although their sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency is rather low, about 30%. Emerging "2-D" semiconductors, which consist of a single layer of crystal, could do that much better—potentially using up to 100% of the sunlight. They could also elevate quantum computing to room temperature from the near-absolute-zero machines demonstrated so far.

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