• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

Alexei Vagov: ‘Metamaterials Should Serve People'

Alexei Vagov

Alexei Vagov
Photo from personal archive

The Centre for Quantum Metamaterials is one of the new international laboratories that will be launched at MIEM, HSE University, in 2022.  Alexei Vagov, Head of the Centre, speaks about the main areas of the Centre’s research, its team, and future research cooperation.

What are quantum metamaterials? How do they differ from ordinary materials and compounds?

— There are a large number of different materials and compounds in the world. However, to be able to use them in everyday life, we usually need to improve and modify their properties, for example, by means of physical or chemical processing and nanoengineering. The entire technological evolution of humankind is in fact a series of changes in the way materials are processed. To make a stone axe, we need to hew a piece of stone and then attach it to a handle, while to make an axle for a wagon or steam locomotive, we need to smelt ore, which we then need to forge.

Over the past two decades, technology has advanced to the point where processing takes place in a controlled manner at the level of individual atoms or their configurations.

We can produce metamaterials by combining sequences of atoms of different types. The name comes from the Greek word ‘μετά’, which means ‘beyond.’ Metamaterials have unique properties that cannot be found in any of their component materials

We have known about metamaterials for quite a while. They are created for optical devices and waveguides for radio waves. However, modern technology makes it possible to create structures a few nanometers in size or even less. Quantum effects play a crucial role at these scales. These effects can be either a help or a hindrance, so it is essential to ‘make them our friends.’ To do so, we need to study them and understand how they affect the properties of metamaterials.

— What makes quantum metamaterials interesting for research and in practice? Why do we need to study them?

— Metamaterials produced in this way are not found in nature, and, very importantly, their properties can be adjusted to meet given characteristics. For example, semiconductor ‘quantum dots’ are 2–5 nanometers in size, and their optical properties make them similar to atoms. However, their emission spectra are in a completely different range than those of real atoms. ‘Dots’ can be used to create an ideal source of radiation of a single photon, which is very necessary in quantum informatics.

Another example is arrays of closely spaced superconducting wires with nanometer-length cross sections. Such wires can be made of materials with one type of magnetic properties, but the superconducting magnetic properties of the entire array can be of a kind never found in conventional superconductors. This expands the possibilities for using superconducting elements in nanoelectronics.

Current research in this field is developing very rapidly around the world. This interest in quantum metamaterials at the interface of fundamental science and technology is due to the vast number of opportunities they offer. They have potential applications across the whole range of human activity—from everyday clothes to quantum computing.

— Can you tell us about the Centre’s team? How was it put together? What kind of experience does its staff have in Russia and abroad?

— The scientific cooperation of our Centre's core team began a long time ago. Its main members—Professors François Peeters, Arkady Shanenko, Mihail Croitoru, and myself —have known each other for many years through our joint work both in Russia and at foreign universities. Our scientific interests overlapped back then, and the results of our many years of research are reflected in more than a hundred articles we have written together and presented at dozens of international conferences.

Professor François Peeters is a leading researcher at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and the Academic Supervisor of our Centre. He is an outstanding expert in the field of quantum materials, author of more than a thousand works and monographs, and long-term co-author of Nobel Prize laureates Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov. He is a full member of the Royal Belgian Academy of Sciences and an elected member of the European Academy of Sciences.

Arkady Shanenko, Chief Research Fellow of the Centre, worked at Professor Peeters’ Laboratory of Condensed Matter Theory at the University of Antwerp. Arkady has been a visiting professor at universities in Hungary and Italy, and worked at the Federal University of Pernambuco (Brazil) for about seven years.

Professor Mihail Croitoru, the Centre's Leading Research Fellow, received his PhD from the University of Antwerp, has worked at universities in Belgium, Germany, France, and Taiwan, and has also been at the Federal University of Pernambuco for the past four years.

Personally, I have a lot of experience working at different universities and research centres on different continents, including the University of Antwerp, and with Prof. Peeters. I received my PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra, my Habilitation (highest academic qualification) at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, and I have been a Privatdozent at this university for the last ten years. I have participated in and led many national, European, and global research projects.

— How did the idea to create the Centre for Quantum Metamaterials at MIEM come about?

— The idea first came to us when Arkady Shanenko came back from Brazil to Russia and started working at HSE University. We began to think about how we could organize cooperation and decided to create a MIEM-based team to make it a centre of our Russian and international projects.

We analyzed the topics of HSE international laboratories, and to our surprise, there was no laboratory that dealt with modern functional and quantum materials. And so the idea for our association finally took shape. Strange as it may seem, the COVID pandemic helped us with this: remote work further expanded the research topics of all participants, which formed the basis for the creation of the Centre.

— How do you see the Centre's cooperation with other HSE departments and its integration into the university’s educational and research projects?

— In terms of research activities, we plan to cooperate with Professor Konstantin Arutyunov’s Quantum Nanoelectronics Laboratory, Professor Grigory Goltsman’s team, and applied mathematics teams within MIEM. We are also very interested in close collaboration with our colleagues from the Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology and the Faculty of Chemistry.

The Centre will be giving lectures and seminars for MIEM students on subjects that are part of the curriculum. We will be offering new topics for study that are directly related to the problems our Centre deals with

We will be introducing new learning formats based on innovative approaches, such as laboratory work on theoretical subjects.

We certainly want to involve MIEM undergraduate and postgraduate students in our Centre’s national and international projects, and to organize student exchanges with foreign universities using our professional contacts. Students will have the opportunity to complete work placements in Professor Peeters' laboratory at the University of Antwerp.

— What are your short-term research plans? What results are you planning to achieve?

— Our top priority is to make the Centre for Quantum Metamaterials a leading research laboratory that carries out theoretical and computer modeling of modern functional metamaterials.

We will be participating in state-of-the-art coworking that brings together researchers from all continents. We are planning close cooperation with universities in the USA, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Australia, and China. Professor Shanenko is one of the founders of the international scientific network MultiSuper, and we are planning to make our Centre a Russian node of this network, which would greatly facilitate our contacts with other teams working on similar topics.

However, we do not want to focus exclusively on theoretical activities, so we will be cooperating with experimental and engineering teams to develop possible applications and find ways to apply the results of our research. Quantum metamaterials should serve people.

In addition, we will be promoting research and science among students at HSE University and beyond. We will be telling people about our Centre. As researchers, we see this as a guarantee of the high-quality work to be done by our future colleagues who are currently students at HSE University.

See also:

'We Wanted to Create an Opportunity for Intercampus Teams to Engage in Promising Studies'

HSE University has announced the winners of the Project Competition in Basic Science Research for Intercampus Departments. The competition, which the university is organising for the first time, will provide funding to 10 research teams working on five topics. Four of the winning projects will be implemented by new research departments formed as a result of the competition.

HSE MIEM Celebrates 60 Years at the Forefront of Electronics and Mathematics

Students, staff and graduates of the HSE Tikhonov Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM HSE), university leaders, representatives of HSE University faculties and partner companies gathered at the HSE Culture Centre on October 14 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the institute. 

Research Reveals RNA's Role in Cancer Progression

An international group of scientists and medical specialists, including HSE researchers, examined the role played by microRNA (miRNA) and long non-coding RNAs on the progression of ovarian cancer. Having analysed more than a hundred tumour samples, they found that miRNA can prevent cell mutation while long non-coding RNAs have the opposite effect of enabling such mutations. These findings can help design new drugs which act by regulating miRNA concentrations. The study was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

‘We Managed to Bring Together Specialists in AI, Pure Mathematics, and Neurobiology’

In early September, the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science hosted the international conference Computer Methods of Cognitome Analysis. The event was organised by the International Laboratory of Algebraic Topology and Its Applications at the faculty.

Russian Researchers Propose New Approach to Studying Facial Emotion Recognition

Researchers of the HSE University and the Southern Federal University (SFedU) have tested a new method for studying the perception of facial emotional expressions. They suggest that asking subjects to recognise emotional expressions from dynamic video clips rather than static photographs can improve the accuracy of findings, eg in psychiatric and neurological studies. The paper is published in Applied Sciences.

Academics Started Working Even More During the Pandemic

Academics’ work week became even longer during the pandemic. This is true of researchers from different countries, independently of their gender and specialisation, an international research team with HSE University participation found. Their working time during the pandemic was 51 hours compared to the usual 40. The increased number of working hours per week seems to have become part of the new academic norm. The results of the study were published in the Plos One journal.

HSE Researchers Develop New Method for Analysing Genetic Admixture of Populations

Researchers of the HSE International Laboratory of Statistical and Computational Genomics together with their international colleagues have proposed a new statistical method for analysing population admixture that makes it possible to determine the time and number of migration waves more accurately. The history of Colombians and Mexicans (descendants of Native Americans, Spaniards and Africans) features two episodes of admixture that occurred about 350 and 200 years ago for Mexicans and 400 and 100 years ago for Colombians. The results were published in the Plos Genetics journal.

Scholars from Moscow and Vladivostok Join Efforts to Study Institutes and Preferences in Economic Behaviour

Applications from HSE departments for the ‘Mirror Laboratories’ open project competition are open until May 20. One of the ‘mirror laboratories’ successfully operating today was created as a result of a similar competition in 2020 by economists from HSE University and Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) to study institutes and preferences in economic behaviour. Alexis Belianin, Head of the HSE International Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics, talked about how peers from Moscow and Vladivostok collaborate.

Stress Disorders More Prevalent among Doctors due to the Pandemic

Psychologists from HSE University have joined their peers from Ekaterinburg to look into the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Russian doctors. They found that medical staff are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression more often than before. The results of the study were published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

International Laboratory of Landscape Ecology Opens at HSE University

The laboratory will be led by Robert Sandlersky, a specialist in energy and mass transfer and the study of other properties of landscapes via satellite imagery and Senior Research Fellow at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The HSE News Service spoke to Robert about the laboratory’s future activities.