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HTSM grant for physicist Tjerk Oosterkamp

This header image was once elected Image of the Week by De Volkskrant and won second place in the LION Image Award. The research behind it is no less successful if we’re counting prizes. Last August, group leader Tjerk Oosterkamp was awarded an NWO Projectruimte grant, and now NWO-TTW grants him an HTSM subsidy.

The header image shows a small magnetic particle, three hundred times smaller than a millimeter, glued to an even thinner needle. Because Oosterkamp works at temperatures of 10 milliKelvin, close to absolute zero, the needle holds still enough to feel tiny vibrations induced by the magnetic force of individual electrons. Among others, Oosterkamp’s group uses the setup to develop an MRI scanner at the nanoscale or to search for the edge of the quantum world.

Using the HTSM grant, Oosterkamp hopes to contribute to solving one of the fabrication problems of quantum computers. Developers struggle with the presence of individual, ‘unpaired’ electrons. In most materials, electrons form pairs in which both spin in opposite direction, and therefore annihilate each other’s magnetic field. Unpaired electrons retain their magnetic field, so they can perturb quantum computers. Oosterkamp will now further develop his technique so that in the future scientists can search for the presence of unwanted unpaired electrons during each step of the building process of a quantum computer.

As part of the grant, Oosterkamp’s group collaborates with the company Leiden Spin Imaging. Together they will develop the so-called easyMRFM.

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