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Innovations for Quantum Computing with Topological Insulators

Jülich / Würzburg, 31 May 2021 – Forschungszentrum Jülich and the University of Würzburg will together investigate the quantum phenomena of topological materials and the opportunities they present within quantum computing. The Free State of Bavaria is funding the project to the tune of € 13 million.

Numerous research groups worldwide are working on the development of quantum computers. Such computers will offer numerous advantages when they are ready for application. They require very little energy and provide extremely fast computing power as well as a high level of data security.

However, a number of technical challenges still need to be overcome. To achieve further progress in this regard, Forschungszentrum Jülich and the University of Würzburg (JMU) are strengthening their long-standing cooperation in this field.

The project partners are turning to topological insulators as a material class. Together, they aim to research and develop topological material systems that would serve as suitable components for quantum computers.

Jülich and JMU: A strong partnership

Wolfgang Marquardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, and then JMU President Alfred Forchel signed a cooperation agreement to that effect in March 2021.

“The cooperation with Jülich provides JMU with a great opportunity,” Forchel explains. “We already have outstanding resources in Würzburg in the fields of solid-state physics, semiconductor physics, and topological materials. In Forschungszentrum Jülich, we have a strong partner whose expertise complements our own very nicely. Together, we can lead the way in topological quantum computing.”

Wolfgang Marquardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, adds: “The development of highly complex technologies such as those required for quantum computing can only be successfully achieved through sharing expertise and through the cooperation of strong partners. This cooperation is an important foundation to bring together the complementary expertise of JMU and Forschungszentrum Jülich as part of a joint effort to explore the possibilities of topological materials for robust quantum computers and thus to create a hub for new, solid-state quantum innovations.

Funding from Bavaria

The Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy is providing roughly € 13 million in funding to the project to investigate quantum computing on the basis of topological materials through experimental and theoretical approaches. Bavaria’s minister president Markus Söder had announced this investment at the end of 2019 as part of the state’s Hightech Agenda Bayern initiative.

Four research groups involved

Funding is to be provided to four research groups. This funding will be used to establish four young investigators groups at both research locations.

From JMU, the teams of professors Laurens Molenkamp (experimental physics) and Björn Trauzettel (theoretical physics) are taking part in the cooperation. Both teams aim to host young researchers from Jülich who will set up their own young investigators groups in Würzburg. The idea behind this is as follows: “The young people will act as a kind of 'human bridge' bringing expertise from Jülich to Würzburg and vice versa,” explains Trauzettel.

Helmholtz Nano FacilityProcessing of Josephson Junctions and Qubits in the Helmholtz Nano Facility (HNF)
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich

At Jülich, the subsinstitutes of the Peter Grünberg Institute (PGI) specializing in the fields of solid-state physics and theoretical physics are participating, led by professors Detlev Grützmacher (PGI-9), Stefan Tautz (PGI-3), Stefan Blügel (PGI-1), and David DiVincenzo (PGI-2). “Through the continuation of the Virtual Institute for Topological Insulators, which is funded by the Helmholtz Association, synergies in research into topological insulators will now be used in closer scientific collaboration to establish a pathway towards quantum computing,” says Grützmacher to explain the high hopes being placed in this project.

Long-standing cooperation in an excellent environment

Various collaborations in the fields of physics and information technology materials have been in place between Forschungszentrum Jülich and JMU for over ten years now. In 2012, the Virtual Institute for Topological Insulators (VITI) was jointly founded by the two partners. In light of the promising developments in topological quantum computing, both parties have decided to strengthen this cooperation in the form of joint working groups.

The research collaboration operates in an outstanding environment with two clusters of excellence related to the field: Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter (CT.QMAT) (Würzburg-Dresden) and Matter and Light for Quantum Computing (ML4Q) (Cologne–Aachen–Bonn–Jülich).

A Helmholtz Quantum Center is also being built at Jülich. At JMU, a new building is under construction for the Institute for Topological Insulators (ITI). The first research teams are scheduled to move into the new building as of mid-2021.


Researchers from Jülich and Würzburg are jointly investigating new, exotic quantum states that form at interfaces between superconductors and topological materials. The image shows a quantum dot contact structure constructed at JMU from the topological insulator mercury telluride (blue), which is contacted with superconducting electrodes (green). An electrostatic gate (yellow) is used to control current conduction across the junction. Similar structures will be used in the future to investigate fundamental properties of topological qubits. (Copyright: Johannes Baumann / University of Würzburg)

Scientific contacts:

Prof. Dr. Laurens Molenkamp, Leiter des Lehrstuhls für Experimentelle Physik III, Universität Würzburg, tel: +49 931 31-84925,
Prof. Dr. Björn Trauzettel, Leiter des Lehrstuhls für Theoretische Physik IV, Universität Würzburg, tel: +49 931 31-83638,
Prof. Dr. Detlev Grützmacher, Direktor am Peter Grünberg Institut 9, Forschungszentrum Jülich, tel: +49 2461 612340,
Prof. Dr. Stefan Tautz, Direktor am Peter Grünberg Institut 3, Forschungszentrum Jülich, tel: +49 2461 614561,
Prof. S. Blügel, Direktor am Peter Grünberg Institut 1, Forschungszentrum Jülich, tel: +49 2461 614249,
Prof. D. DiVincenzo, Direktor am Peter Grünberg Institut 2, Forschungszentrum Jülich, tel: +49 2461 619069,

Press contact:

Tobias Schlößer
Press Officer, Forschungszentrum Jülich
tel: +49 2461 61-4771