Hallas, Alannah - University of British Columbia (UBC)


Under pressure! From the Instant Pot to synthesis of quantum materials at 250,000 atmospheres.


Quantum materials are solids with remarkable structural, electrical, and magnetic properties derived from intense quantum mechanical effects. As a result, quantum materials are fascinating for both their fundamental physics and their potential to unlock new technologies. However, many quantum materials have never been successfully synthesized in the lab and can only be studied in theory. In this talk, I will show how high-pressure synthesis can be used to bring these hypothetical materials into reality, allowing us to study their remarkable quantum states for the first time. In materials synthesis, as in cooking, the two most common variables are temperature and composition (the ratio of ingredients). Much like a pressure cooker (i.e. an Instant Pot) can help you cook a meal that you couldn’t make on the stove, high pressure conditions can allow you to synthesize materials that could never be reached with temperature and composition alone. Our experimental apparatus allows us to reach pressures of 25 GPa, which is 250,000 times atmospheric pressure and equivalent to the pressure more than 1000 km below the earth's surface. Under these extreme high pressure conditions, we have been able to synthesize new quantum materials that include a metal that doesn’t conduct electricity and a magnet that violates the third law of thermodynamics.

Short bio

Dr. Alannah Hallas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Winnipeg (2011), her Master’s at the University of Manitoba (2013), and her Doctorate as a Vanier Scholar at McMaster University (2017). Her PhD thesis was awarded the Neutron Scattering Society of America's Prize for Outstanding Student Research. Prior to starting her faculty position at UBC, Dr. Hallas was the Smalley-Curl Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Dr. Hallas's research centers on an interdisciplinary approach to the design and crystal growth of new quantum materials, spanning techniques from physics to chemistry to geology. Her lab, which is part of the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute at UBC, will house the most advanced high-pressure synthesis capabilities in all of Canada. Her group studies the magnetic properties of the materials they grow by traveling to particle accelerators and bombarding their samples with neutrons and muons. Outside of research, Dr. Hallas’s interests include watching baseball, playing bridge, and cooking, especially because of its many analogies with crystal growth!

Return to previous page