Information & communication technologies (ICT)
Our knowledge-based societies are utterly reliant on modern technologies for the storage and processing of digital information and to meet our insatiable demand for increasingly fast and ever smaller devices. There are, however, physical limits to what can be achieved by conventional computers due to the limited number of transistors that can fit on a chip and the energy required for their operation. Key to the next information technology revolution is our ability to harness the full power of quantum states, in particular those involving electron spins. Once we can control these phenomena on the nanoscale, more information can be encoded in the same amount of space, thus increasing data density. The use of spintronic devices also improves energy efficiency since spin-encoded information can be transported without the motion of electrons and hence energy loss. Quantum computing is set to bring about major advances in processing speed, creating the potential for unprecedented problem-solving capabilities across all sectors. However, before this can be achieved, a number of significant challenges need to be overcome.
The nuclear spin of neutrons makes them the most direct, intrinsically powerful probe of these quantum phenomena, thanks to their ability to reveal detailed magnetic structure and dynamics. Neutrons also penetrate the complex equipment required to carry out experiments in this domain, where new electronic and spin states of matter and novel phenomena are often discovered at very low temperatures, high magnetic fields and high pressure. Neutrons therefore have a key role to play at this exciting frontier in condensed-matter physics