Slovenian physicist Mihailović wins his third ERC grant

Ljubljana, 11 April - Slovenian researcher at the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) Dragan Mihailović has won a EUR 2.5 million grant from the European Research Centre (ERC) for a five year project in quantum physics. This is his third ERC grant and second advanced grant.

In the project, Mihailović and his team will study hidden metastable mesoscopic states in quantum materials. These are states with a longer lifetime but are not completely stable as they are sensitive to external disturbances and can transition to other states.

The researchers will study electron ordering in quantum systems on timescales that have so far been out of reach. They will try to develop new methods to capture the motion of individual electrons in matter with very high resolution both in terms of size and time.

"In a way we want to create a video camera that can record with an atomic resolution and a shutter speed of two pico seconds," Mihailović told the STA. A pico second is equal to one trillionth of a second.

Observing electrons in such small intervals of time could help researchers better understand the basic processes in quantum systems and discover new types of electron ordering.

The results of the project could be applied to the development of quantum computers. "If we succeed in what we set out to do in the project, we could potentially design a quantum processor based on a new operating principle," said Mihailović.

The project was one of 255 projects selected for funding from 1,829 applications, said the Higher Education, Science and Innovation Ministry.

This is the third ERC grant for Mihailović, who was the first Slovenian to win an advanced grant in 2012 and received a proof-of-concept grant in 2017. Mihailović is one of three Slovenian researchers that have won multiple ERC advanced grants.

This is also the eight ERC project for the JSI.

The ERC advanced grant is one of the most prestigious and competitive EU research grants, awarded to established, leading researchers with a track record of important research achievements in the past decade.