Fundamental science

Fundamental research into novel electronic systems—superconductors, spintronics and hybrid materials—underpins and guides our industrial research programmes.

Scientist inserting a sample into a furnace.

Our fundamental research programmes inform the development of new applications.

High temperature superconductors

Superconductors are materials capable of transporting electricity with zero energy loss. Metallic superconductors (or low temperature superconductors) require cooling to temperatures below –250°C but high temperature superconductors (HTS) exhibit this effect at the relatively high temperatures of –135°C.

The origin of HTS remains a central unsolved problem in physics today. At the Robinson Research Institute, we have an ongoing programme to study the electronic properties of HTS materials. By examining the electronic interactions in superconducting materials and comparing observations with theories, we are gaining knowledge to inform the development of new materials.

Our research into HTS materials includes:

  • ion size and pressure effects
  • Fermi surface reconstruction
  • vortex pinning and critical currents.

Spintronics and magnetic materials

Spintronics research is the investigation of materials and material structures where electronic spin, as well as charge, is used to make new electronic devices with superior properties. Spintronic devices may solve current challenges such as storing information permanently with low energy wastage, accurately detecting magnetic fields in industrial and scientific applications and generating accurate timing signals for mobile devices.

We make new materials and prototype sensor structures for measuring magnetic fields, particularly using our thin film sputtering system materials are measured and characterised using the physical property measurement system (PPMS) and SQUID magnetometer that are hosted on site. Once characterised, the materials can be incorporated into new applications.

We collaborate with other New Zealand researchers in the spintronics field, particularly the Spintronics Research Group also based at Victoria University, who are developing novel rare earth nitride materials and devices.

Current research

Current research includes:

  • magnetic and transport properties of half-metallic Heusler alloy thin films
  • producing and optimising magnetic multilayer sensor structures
  • linear magnetoresistance materials for high-field sensing
  • manipulating the Dirac point of topological insulators.

Layered organic-inorganic hybrid and other advanced materials

Manufacturing superconductors is a complex process requiring high temperatures and multiple processing steps. A high current density is also required—this is very dependent on the operating temperature of the device being designed.

We are investigating new superconducting materials based on iron and topological insulators, as well as metal-oxide layers spaced by highly electron-rich organic molecules, which could be synthesised at lower temperatures in a simpler and more cost-effective process.

Layered systems also enable the properties of a material to be tuned and explored through non-conventional doping routes, such as electrochemistry and ion-implantation, helping us understand high temperature superconductivity.

Key staff

High temperature superconductors: Dr Jeff Tallon | Dr James Storey 
Spintronics: Dr Simon Granville | Dr Shen Chong
Layered materials: Dr Jeff Tallon | Dr Shen Chong

Recent publications and patents

View recent publications and patents that relate to our fundamental science research programmes.


We actively collaborate with the following New Zealand and international research organisations.