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European Microkelvin Platform

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EMP (European Microkelvin Platform)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-12-31

The European Microkelvin Platform (EMP) is a consortium of 8 leading European ultralow- temperature laboratories and 9 technology partners and companies with the central goal of investigating and exploiting technology and materials which benefit from ultra-cold and ultra-quiet environments. Europe has a considerable lead in this field and a large fraction of the major European players are associated with this consortium.

The environment of ultralow temperatures, where the thermal energy, or heat, is so small that the quantum nature of materials becomes evident on large scales. A well-known example is superconductivity, where currents in certain materials can flow without resistance. This state of matter, first observed at very low temperatures in elementary metals, is now a vast field of research of large societal importance, as evidenced by its use in power generation, commodity searches, transportation, and medical imaging, to name just a few. Typical for the quantum technology field, this list grows constantly, as methods based on superconductivity advance and new materials are discovered. Superconductivity is just one well-known example of many extraordinary states of matter that can ideally be explored or even discovered at ultra-low temperatures, and which have the potential to influence everyday life by leading to novel technologies that are hard to envision today. This is very much a frontier field and as the quest for even lower temperatures continually advances, as yet unknown, novel and potentially exploitable states of matter will inevitably emerge.

The overall objectives of the consortium are to enhance and widen the integration of the leading ultralow temperature facilities in Europe under the umbrella of the European Microkelvin Platform which will lead to strengthening Europe’s international leadership in ultralow temperature studies and technology. The ultralow temperatures labs of EMP open their doors for all European researchers across the disciplines from academic institutions and companies that work on related problems but have no access to the specific environments EMP can provide. Combined, the EMP labs offer the most comprehensive portfolio of cryogenic facilities worldwide. Users can apply for measuring time at EMP labs to pursue their own scientific ideas and projects. Each individual user project is supported by EMP staff and scientists to ensure efficient and successful execution. Together with the EMP technology partners, the EMP labs carry out a targeted research programme that aims to enhance the capabilities for access and to exploit any technology that is developed within the EMP programme. Scientific exchange and the training of technical staff and young scientists are made available through user meetings and topical summer schools.

The scientific community and the general public are addressed and informed about the scientific goals and outcomes of the research programme carried out by EMP through a broad set of dissemination activities, such as talks and presentations at conferences and public events, social media activities, press releases, TV and radio appearances, children and student workshops, open lab nights, educational videos, and science shows.
Over the reporting period, we received many user proposals. The proposals were scientifically evaluated by an independent panel of experts and 39 were selected and laboratory time was assigned to carry out each specific project at an appropriate EMP laboratory. Once allocated, preparatory work performed together with the local EMP staff at the site selected, began for each user project following which the actual scientific measurements were started. Until the Covid-19 pandemic limited travelling and access to all EMP laboratories, the EMP user programme was running smoothly producing many new results. Most notably, all the technical capabilities requested by users were provided, and all facilities operated flawlessly.

In addition, joint research activities within the EMP have been launched from the very beginning on all planned topics, which include advancing to even lower temperatures, establishing new thermometry in unchartered territory, exploiting quantum technology for ultrasensitive measuring devices, advancing nanoscience capabilities at ultralow temperatures and probing quantum materials at the lowest temperatures. In this part of the program, new on-chip cooling techniques have been devised and refined to cool nano-devices to the lowest temperatures ever reached (a field where Europe has an established lead). At the same time, on-chip thermometry has been pushed to new frontiers, achieving record speed and accuracy. Several new devices based on quantum technology have been developed, enabling ultra-sensitive energy detection, magnetic flux measurement, and amplification at the quantum limit to name just a few.

A very important component of the program comprises the Innovation Projects, which are carried out in partnership between academic institutions and companies. These have been initiated to maximize the impact of the EMP research and to expedite bringing to market new products based on the technology arising from the program as quickly as possible. These new products include new high-resolution thermometry, new robust cryogenic platforms, new low-noise IV converters, and amplifiers. The consortium has already launched its first new spin-off company, "Basel Precision Instruments" from Basel University. The initial success of several of their new instruments exceeded all expectations, with the first production series being briskly sold out, necessitating a rapid ramp-up in production.

In order to inform both the scientific community and the general public about the results of the EMP and to promote further education and awareness of physics issues and science in general, EMP has established a comprehensive dissemination and communication programme aimed both at scientists and interested individuals and groups of all ages of the general public.
The EMP programme is largely concerned with carrying nanoscience down into the milli- and microkelvin region, with numerous work packages, many leading to new electronic and sensor devices to be operated at the lowest possible temperatures. This will be an important step in the development of quantum computers where lower temperatures and quieter environments are the secrets for longer coherence times. Furthermore, we also expect that we will be able to demonstrate the cooling of metallic samples well into the nanokelvin regime. This would open up a completely new, hitherto inaccessible, temperature regime. We can speculate on what we would find there, but the reality invariable turns out to be much more interesting and surprising.

In these frontier activities, we are developing the technological tools of the future. The potential of these activities covers all the aspirations of the EU Horizon 2020 programme: Health, Food, Energy, Transport, Climate and Resources, and Secure Societies. The societal impact will come down the line with the putting of our technology to use. We are providing the tools. The next wave of medical technologists, the quantum computing engineers, the quantum cryptographers, and the remote sensing experts will be the ones to make use of them and put them at the service of mankind.
EMP homepage header
EMP microkelvin facility
Research programme and projected areas of impact
Participants of the EMP user meeting in Heidelberg 2019