20 August 2018

Jesper Nygård appointed professor of experimental solid-state physics


The University of Copenhagen has appointed Jesper Nygård, Professor with Special Responsibilities (MSO) at the Niels Bohr Institute, to a new professorship in experimental solid-state physics. Jesper Nygård’s daily work is carried out at the Center for Quantum Devices, which is supported by the Danish National Research Foundation. Several of the projects he is working on are in collaboration with other groups within KU’s Nano-Science Center.

Jesper Nygård in a video from 2013 about Nanoelectronics - from artificial atoms to the computers of the future

Jesper Nygård  was appointed associate professor at the Niels Bohr Institute in 2003 and has been a professor with special responsibilities (MSO) in nanophysics since 2011. In 2014, he was admitted to The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Jesper Nygård has had a number of management roles at the Niels Bohr Institute and the Nano-Science Center. He has previously contributed to the start-up of two companies at the University of Copenhagen and with ideas for a number of patents. From 2005-08, Jesper Nygård was known as a Danish astronaut candidate heading for the European Space Agency. He was one of the last remaining among the original 250 Danish applicants for the high-flying job. However, Jesper stayed on Earth and at the University of Copenhagen.

Quantum technology the goal on the horizon

Jesper Nygård researches how quantum mechanical phenomena occur and can be utilised in electronic components based on nanoscale materials. Over the past decade, the research has been focused on a new material, the so-called semiconductor nanowires, which are produced in the laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute and can be utilised in transistors, sensors and perhaps in future quantum computers. In the current experiments, the research group is studying how individual electrons can be trapped in the nanowires and used to build “artificial atoms”; ultra-small electronic components where only a few electrons are active. Jesper Nygård’s group also works with superconducting materials. Here, new research has shown that if you build the two exotic materials together, the nanowires and superconductors, you can create electronic components with entirely new properties – in fact, you may have the recipe for bits for a quantum computer. The professorship thus contributes to the University of Copenhagen’s focus on quantum technology.  

Close collaboration between departments is crucial

Jesper Nygård’s research involves material science, quantum physics and nanotechnology and he emphasizes in particular that the research is only possible through collaboration between many researchers, from enthusiastic students to research colleagues and technical staff, each contributing with unique skills. The close interaction between experiments and theory is also crucial and a special characteristic of the environment at the Niels Bohr Institute. Jesper Nygård also collaborates with chemists in electronics based on molecules and with biologists concerning how living cells interact with nanosystems.

The students directly benefit from Jesper Nygård’s research

Jesper has taught in the Bachelor programme in nano-science since its establishment in 2003 and is also a regular teacher in the Master’s programme in physics. The experiments that take place in the group can be used directly in the teaching for practical illustration of the somewhat abstract quantum mechanics (the theory that describes everything from individual atoms to solid materials). Quantum mechanics are fascinating, but can also be difficult for the students who are just getting acquainted with it for the first time, so any pedagogical support for the course is generally welcome.