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ICMAB researchers participate in the ERC Synergy grant project DarkQuantum

Teresa Puig and Joffre Gutierrez of the Superconducting Materials and Nanostructure at Large Scale (SUMAN) group will contribute to the advancement of quantum technologies for the search for dark matter axions.

26 October 2023

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced today the recipients of the prestigious Synergy Granthas announced today the recipients of the prestigious Synergy Grant for cutting-edge research projects. Among them, DarkQuantum will feature the contributions of ICMAB researchers Teresa Puig and Joffre Gutierrez from the Superconducting Materials and Nanostructure at Large Scale (SUMAN) group. The project is led by Igor García Irastorza from the Center for Astroparticles and High-Energy Physics (CAPA) at the University of Zaragoza in Spain and involves Principal Investigator from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, Aalto University in Finland, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

Quantum technologies for axion dark matter search

DarkQuantum aims to develop new quantum sensors and apply them in experiments designed to detect axions, hypothetical particles believed to play a role in explaining the universe's dark matter. ICMAB researchers' involvement in DarkQuantum focuses on the study and application of high-temperature superconducting tapes to enhance the efficiency of detecting the photons resulting from the transformation of axions at high magnetic fields.

The research leading to the ideas proposed by Teresa Puig and Joffre Gutierrez is rooted in a collaboration that has spanned over six years with CERN and Catalan institutions such as ALBA, UPC, and IFAE. This collaboration is geared towards the study of the new hadron accelerator, FCC-hh. Through their work, they have demonstrated that high-temperature superconducting tapes are a remarkably unique material, with minimal surface resistance at high frequencies, high magnetic fields, and cryogenic temperatures, capable of withstanding high synchrotron light flux. The development of a methodology to assemble these materials on various surfaces is extending their applicability to other high-energy physics technologies, as will be the case in the DarkQuantum project.

"Our group is developing a new methodology for assembling high-temperature superconducting tapes on highly diverse geometries (straight and curved), allowing for a clean coating with the superconducting surface exposed within the resonant cavities designed to detect the axion once it converts into a photon," explained the researchers. "The detection capability of axion-to-photon conversion is directly proportional to the efficiency of the cavity designed to detect them. Coating this cavity with high-temperature superconducting tapes can increase this efficiency by a factor of 500."

DarkQuantum is one of the thirty-four projects awarded an ERC Synergy grant in this call. These projects will collectively receive €359 million in funding to tackle some of the world's most challenging research problems across various scientific disciplines. The funding enables exceptional groups of researchers to combine their diverse skills, knowledge, and resources to advance the boundaries of human knowledge. The ERC Synergy Grant scheme is part of the EU's research and innovation program, Horizon Europe.

About the ERC Synergy Grants

The Synergy Grant scheme is aimed at a group of two to maximum four Principal Investigators (PIs) working together and bringing different skills and resources to tackle ambitious research problems. One Principal Investigator per research group can be hosted or engaged by an institution outside of the EU or Associated Countries. More information.

About the ERC

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation. The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. Since November 2021, Maria Leptin is the President of the ERC. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, under the responsibility of European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Iliana Ivanova.

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