Filming atoms to revolutionize technology. New ERC at Ca’ Foscari

stefano bonetti erc

Shooting history’s shortest film: one billiardth of a second. Enough time to see how the orientation of the nanoscopic magnets changes, with a resolution of a millionth of a millimeter.

This is physicist Stefano Bonetti’s new scientific frontier, recently appointed professor at the Ca’ Foscari Department of  Molecular Science and Nanosystems and at the University of Stockholm’s Department of Physics, with the project Magnetic Speed Limit, which benefits from a funding of almost 2 million euros, provided by the European Research Council (Erc).

To capture such a small object at ultra-speed, he will need enormous devices called free-electron lasers, new generation infrastructures that can generate powerful X-ray flashes.  

Bonetti and his team will begin their operations at the European XFEL in Hamburg, an infrastructure inaugurated in 2017, which costed about 1.2 billion euros. It possesses a straight underground tunnel measuring 3.4 kilometers, where neutrons are accelerated and more than 27 thousand flashes per seconds are emitted.  Some of the experiments will be carried out in Italy as well, at the Sincrotone in Trieste, headquarters of  Fermi FEL. 

Furthermore, an ultra-speed “table” laser system will be installed in the laser lab of the Department of Molecular Sciences and Nanosystems. It will allow experiments that, in conjunction with X-ray technologies, will be able to show an overview of magnetism’s fundamental nature.

“Having an idea and the opportunity to test it in these cutting-edge labs is a great satisfaction for those who, like myself, love experimenting in the quest to discover something new about a fundamental physical phenomenon like magnetism – said the Ca’ Foscari professor – The goal of our experiments is studying magnetism, observing it at never-before-seen speed and resolution”.

A new fundamental research that could revolutionize computer technology “Nowadays, humanity’s data is stored and consulted thanks to magnetic devices – explains Bonetti – our studies could bring to the development of new technologies to manage information in a faster and more energy-efficient way

After his PhD in Physics at the University of Stockholm, Bonetti began his research activity with a postdoc position at Stanford in 2012, before going back to Sweden as a researcher. He is associate professor at the University of Stockholm since 2017, year when he also began his current project “Understanding the speed limits of magnetism”.

“I chose Ca’ Foscari – he stated – because as University, it has shown a true interest in investing in research, like few others have”

With the arrival of Stefano Bonetti, the Erc grant winners at Ca’ Foscari will become 9.

Find out more on the Meet our Erc grantees webpage