Q&A with Alon Ron

Meet the Zuckerman Faculty Scholar Alon Ron at Tel Aviv University, studying “Optical spectroscopy of quantum materials

Alon_Ron_QandA

“I joined a network of bright minds from different backgrounds, a crucial aspect of science today.”

Dr. Alon Ron returns to Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, where his lab explores quantum phenomena in nano scale devices and ultrafast optical spectroscopy of quantum materials. These are areas he explored during his doctorate at TAU and postdoc at Caltech.  His goal is to dynamically stabilize out-of-equilibrium electronic phases of matter in quantum materials.

Please describe your current research, the focus of your lab, and the practical implications of your research

We are currently working on a compound which at ambient conditions is a magnetic insulator. We apply high pressure to this compound by pressing it in between two diamonds with two parallel flat surfaces, giving us the ability to achieve extremely high pressure with this technique as high as tens of thousands of atmospheres. We found that upon application of pressure our compound gradually loses its magnetic properties and becomes an electrical conductor and eventually even a superconductor. This means that current can flow through it without resistance and without generation of hear. The coexistence of magnetism and superconductivity is very rare and it is believed that such materials could be promising platforms for quantum computation.

I am exploring superconductivity and magnetism using ultra-fast tools. I’m interested in what happens when you drive a physical system or disturb it with something external?  We can excite the system with a laser and change the basic properties of the material on demand. Change the laser – change the material. It can either enhance or decrease the strength of its properties.  A certain pulse on a sample could greatly enhance its magnetic properties and turn something temporarily magnetic, creating something that wasn’t there before.

Alon_Ron_Lab

What do you enjoy most about your research?

What I like most about my research is the unexpected. As a condensed matter physicist, I work with very complicated systems that always yield something unexpected and I like being surprised. I also like being in a field where a single person can think of an idea, figure out how to grow the sample, do the experiment, and come to a conclusion – everything from idea to execution to results.

What inspired you to pursue this area of research?  

I spent a week at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee. The preparation and execution of this experiment was very quick – from the idea stage to samples to getting data – which yielded a few surprises. It was something special – a truly magnificent experience – and gave me an appetite for basic science.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Zuckerman Faculty Scholars Program?

I joined a network of bright minds from different backgrounds, a crucial aspect of science today. I’m grateful to be part of the Zuckerman program, which allowed me to quickly set up a lab, train students, and begin my research. I especially value our social interactions, which give me an opportunity to meet other Zuckerman scholars, including those at TAU. We were able to help each other set up our labs, purchasing equipment together at a great discount, for example. These meetings create a strong informal science network and gives us the opportunity to broaden our horizons beyond our own fields.

Where do you hope your research will have the greatest impact? 

I hope something will surprise me in the field of stabilizing out of equilibrium phases of matter, discovering a material property that does not exist in equilibrium.

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