I am a lifelong Star Trek fan, but I am also a researcher that specializes in creating new magnetic materials.
My approach to looking for new phenomena in materials comes from a chemistry perspective: How can we create materials that have new properties that can change our world, and eventually be used to explore “Strange, new worlds”? I believe an understanding of so-called “Quantum materials” in particular is essential to make science-fiction science fact.
What makes a substance a quantum material? Quantum materials have unusual and fantastic properties that arise from enormous numbers of particles acting in a concerted way.
A quantum material has all of the constituent musicians-in this case, the electrons or atoms in a material, which amounts to billions upon billions of particles-acting in a certain way according to quantum rules, or the “Sheet music,” if you will.
How can these new materials be used in the spacecraft of tomorrow? One example might be the force-shields that protect ships in Star Trek. As someone who works on the border between physics and chemistry, I believe that the answer will be found in the discovery of new materials.
Quantum materials offer strange new worlds of discovery and perhaps most exciting are the technologies we haven’t discovered yet-that will exploit quantum effects on scale that humans can easily see.