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Posted: Jan 25, 2011
Two quantum physicists selected in the European Research Council's third 'Advanced Grant' competition
(Nanowerk News) The ERC-"Advanced Grant" for established research leaders is one of the most prestigious research awards worldwide. Two physicists at the University of Stuttgart received independently of each other this grant in the amount of 2.4 Million Euro each to promote their pioneering research: Prof. Tilman Pfau, director of the 5th Physics Institute, is awarded for his research on the control of quantum correlations between long-range quantum gases. Prof. Jörg Wrachtrup, director of the 3rd Physics Institute, gets the award for the application of defect centers in diamonds in quantum technology. Both fields of research are considered very promising with regard to the realization of quantum computers with high computing power and extremely secure data transfers as well as applications in data communication.
Science minister of Baden-Württemberg Professor Dr. Peter Frankenberg congratulated. "The decision of the European Research Council is an honor and great success for the two scientists and the University of Stuttgart alike. The award is also an indicator on how well Baden-Württemberg is positioned in fundamental research. In this 3rd competition the ERC awarded altogether six scientists in Baden-Württemberg with an advanced grant", according to Minister Frankenberg.
"Over the past few years quantum physics has become a research focus in Stuttgart on an extremely high level", stated the Rector of the University Prof. Wolfram Ressel. "We are very pleased that this expertise has been acknowledged by the European Research Council now even with two Advanced Grants. This has also a signaling effect with regard to our proposal in the Excellence Initiative by the German federal and states governments. It shows our excellent international standing in quantum physics - also in the cooperation with other research partners."
ERC Advanced Investigator Grant LIQAD "Long-range interacting quantum systems and devices" (Prof. Tilman Pfau)
In principal the smallest unit of information is a bit which classically can take the value 1 or 0. These two values could also represent true or false, right or left, up or down. The information era is based on the exchange and efficient processing of such information units. The ultimate capacity limit of data processing is reached by the use of the smallest unit available in nature, which is a single quantum e.g. a single photon. Such quantum information carriers follow the laws of quantum mechanics, where also states of superposition of 0 and 1 are allowed. New kinds of quantum components are supposed to send, receive, store and process these quantum information carriers. This offers new possibilities for secure data transfer and quantum information processing by logical operations.
On their way to achieve this goal, Prof. Tilman Pfau and his team are following an approach based on atomic gases. In order to process data the single photons have to interact with each other by changing their state. This is the challenge at the same time, since light beams normally interpenetrate without interaction. In the approach of Tilman Pfau's group interaction is achieved by exciting the photons in atomic gases by efficient absorption. Atoms in excited states highly interact with each other before the excitation and therefore the atom returns to a state with lower energy and light in form of a photon is emitted. Die Kunst dabei ist es, diesen Prozess in möglichst reiner Form ablaufen zu lassen.
The scientists use both ultra cold clouds of atoms and for room temperature applications micro vapor glass cells, which they study parallel. They work with a series of specialized laser systems. Close cooperations exist with theoretical physics and electrical engineering.
The grant award is due to numerous scientific results that were published by Tilman Pfau and his team over the last years in international publications like Nature and Nature Physics and that attracted the interest of the public as well. Mentioned exemplary are the first-time realization of a dipolar quantum gas and the Bose-Einstein condensate with chromium atoms, the discovery of giant molecules that consist of a highly excited Rydberg atom and an atom in the electronic ground state (http://www.uni-stuttgart.de/aktuelles/presse/2009/29.html), as well as the latest research on giant molecules in a quantum superposition http://www.uni-stuttgart.de/aktuelles/presse/2010/126.html).
Prof. Tilman Pfau was born 1965 in Stuttgart. After his studies in Konstanz, Brighton, and Heidelberg he did his PhD at the University of Konstanz, where he habilitated in 1998. After his stay as a guest researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the group of the later Nobel Prize winner Prof. Wolfgang Ketterle he accepted the call as a professor at the University of Stuttgart in 2000 and took over the direction of the newly founded 5th Physics Institute. Since 2005 he is he spokesman of the transregional collaborative research center SFB/TRR21, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). In cooperation with scientists at the universities in Stuttgart, Ulm, and Tübingen the focus of research within the SFB/TRR21 is on the control of quantum correlations in tailored matter.