Innovations for quantum computing with topological insulators

Jülich / Würzburg, May 31, 2021 - The research centers Jülich and Würzburg will jointly explore quantum phenomena of topological materials and their opportunities for quantum computing. The Free State of Bavaria is funding the project with 13 million euros.

Many research groups worldwide are working on the development of Quantum Computers. Once such computers are ready for practical use, they would have many advantages: They would consume very little energy and offer extremely fast computing power and high data security.

However, there are still a number of technical hurdles on the way. In order to make further progress in this area, Forschungszentrum Jülich and Julius Maximilians University (JMU) Würzburg are intensifying their long-standing cooperation in this field.

The partners are focusing on the material class of topological insulators. Together, they want to research and develop topological material systems that are suitable as components for Quantum Computers.

Jülich and JMU: two strong partners united

Wolfgang Marquardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, and the then JMU President Alfred Forchel, had signed the corresponding cooperation agreement in March 2021.

"The cooperation with Jülich offers JMU a great opportunity," said Alfred Forchel. "In the fields of solid-state physics, semiconductor physics and topological materials, we are already excellently positioned in Würzburg. With Jülich, we have a strong partner whose expertise complements ours very well. Together, we can take a leading position in topological quantum computing."

Wolfgang Marquardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, believes, "The development of such highly complex technologies as those needed for quantum computing can only be successfully mastered by pooling expertise and cooperating with strong partners. This collaboration is an important cornerstone to combine the complementary competences of JMU and Forschungszentrum Jülich in joint efforts with the goal to explore the possibilities of topological materials for robust quantum computing, thus creating a nucleus for new solid-state-based quantum innovations."

Bavaria as sponsor

The Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, State Development and Energy is funding the project "Building blocks for quantum computing based on topological materials using experimental and theoretical approaches" with around 13 million euros. Minister President Markus Söder announced this investment at the end of 2019 as part of Bavaria's High-Tech Agenda.

Four research groups involved

The funding is to flow into four research groups. Among other things, they will be used to establish four junior research groups at the two sites. From JMU, the teams of Professors Laurens Molenkamp (Experimental Physics) and Björn Trauzettel (Theoretical Physics) are involved in the cooperation. Both teams want to host young researchers from Jülich who can establish their own junior research groups here. The idea behind it: "The young people should act as a kind of 'human bridge' to carry Jülich expertise to Würzburg and vice versa," explains Björn Trauzettel.

Processing of Josephson junctions and qubits in the Helmholtz Nano-Facility (HNF)
Forschungszentrum Jülich

In Jülich, the Peter Grünberg Institutes are involved in experimental solid-state physics and theoretical physics, led by Professors Detlev Grützmacher (PGI-9), Stefan Tautz (PGI-3), Stefan Blügel (PGI-1) and David DiVincenzo (PGI-2). "In a continuation of the Virtual Institute for Topological Insulators, which is funded by the Helmholtz Association, synergies in the research of topological insulators will now be exploited in close scientific cooperation to pave this way for quantum computing," Detlev Grützmacher describes the high hopes placed in this project.

Longstanding cooperation with an excellent environment

For more than ten years, Forschungszentrum Jülich and JMU have been involved in a wide range of collaborations in the fields of physics and information technology materials. In 2012, the joint Virtual Institute for Topological Insulators (VITI) was founded. In view of the promising developments in topological quantum computing, both sides decided to consolidate this cooperation in the form of joint working groups.

The research cooperation operates in an outstanding environment with two thematically matching clusters of excellence: "Complexity and Topology in Quantum Materials ct.qmat" (Würzburg-Dresden) and "Matter and Light for Quantum Information ML4Q" (Cologne-Aachen-Bonn-Jülich).

In addition, a Helmholtz Quantum Center is under construction in Jülich. At JMU, a new building is currently being constructed for the Institute for Topological Insulators (ITI). It is expected that the first research teams will gradually move in from mid-2021.

Researchers from Jülich and Würzburg are jointly investigating new, exotic quantum states that form at the interfaces between superconductors and topological materials. The picture shows a quantum dot contact structure constructed at the JMU from the topological insulator mercury telluride (blue), which is contacted with superconducting electrodes (green). With the help of an electrostatic gate (yellow), the power line is controlled through the constriction. Similar structures will be used in the future to study fundamental properties of topological qubits. (Copyright: Johannes Baumann / University of Würzburg)
Forschungszentrum Jülich / Würzburg

Scientific contact:

Prof. Dr. Laurens Molenkamp, Head of the Chair of Experimental Physics III, Universität Würzburg, Tel. +49 931 31-84925,

Prof. Dr. Björn Trauzettel, Head of the Chair for Theoretical Physics IV, Universität Würzburg, Tel. +49 931 31-83638,

Prof. Dr. Detlev Grützmacher, Director at the Peter Grünberg Institute 9, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Tel. +49 2461 612340,

Prof. Dr. Stefan Tautz, Director at the Peter Grünberg Institute 3, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Tel. +49 2461 614561,

Prof. S. Blügel, Director at the Peter Grünberg Institute 1, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Tel. +49 2461 614249,

Prof. D. DiVincenzo, Director at the Peter Grünberg Institute 2, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Tel. +49 2461 619069,

Press contact:

Tobias Schlößer
Press officer, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Tel.: +49 2461 61-4771

Last Modified: 16.08.2022