Leon Balents Appointed Co-Director of CIFAR’s Quantum Materials Program

Scientists have known for a long time that nature is quantum, following physical principles — at the atomic and molecular levels — that to the naked eye would seem counterintuitive and downright surreal. According to Leon Balents, KITP Permanent Member and Yzurdiaga Chair of Theoretical Physics, these quantum behaviors can be harnessed to produce materials and technologies with properties we’ve only dreamed of, as well as applications we haven’t even thought of yet. “Quantum materials are materials — solid substances — whose electrons act together to produce surprising properties relying on the quantum laws of nature,” said Balents. “Quantum materials can provide new means to convert waste heat into usable energy, to build exquisitely accurate sensors, and to transmit power with ultra-low loss.”

KITP Permanent Member, Leon Balents. Photo by Matt Perko.

And now, as a new co-director of the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR) Quantum Materials program, Balents is poised to contribute both his expertise in correlated electron systems, quantum magnetism and complex materials, and his leadership to aid the success of this collaborative endeavor. CIFAR is a Canada-based, global charitable organization that convenes extraordinary minds to address science and humanity’s most important questions. By supporting long-term interdisciplinary collaboration, CIFAR provides researchers with an unparalleled environment of trust, transparency and knowledge-sharing. A mission very similar to that of the KITP.

“I’m honored to take on this leadership role in CIFAR’s longest- running program, which has played a seminal role in its area of quantum physics,” Balents said. “The Quantum Materials program led the world to advances in high-temperature superconductivity, and has since broadened to embrace, and in fact define, the field of quantum materials. These are the logical successors of the semiconductor materials which underlie today’s electronics, and will be used to create the quantum computers of tomorrow,” Balents said. “As a new CIFAR co-director, I aim to advance this field by convening the best minds and most creative scientists in the field for intense brainstorming, collaboration and training for young scientists in this dynamic field. I hope that I can both help the program to engage internationally while supporting the Canadian community from which it springs.”

- Sonia Fernandez
UCSB Public Affairs

KITP Newsletter, Spring 2019