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Successful quantum research at LUH and PTB: Large-scale project is being renewed

Sonderforschungsbereich DQ-mat erhält bis 2024 rund 9,2 Millionen Euro für quantenphysikalische Grundlagenforschung


The German Research Foundation (DFG) will promote "Collaborative Research Center 1227 – Designed Quantum Material States" (DQ-mat) for four more years and provide roughly 9.2 million euros in funding. The DFG's senate announced this decision after its session on 28 May 2020. "The scientists working in the DQ-mat Collaborative Research Center have demonstrated their outstanding performance during the last four years. I am very pleased with this decision and would like to thank them for their great dedication. Once again, the DFG's vote shows that Leibniz University is also among the leading universities in Germany and beyond in the field of quantum optics," explains Prof. Volker Epping, the President of Leibniz University. In addition to Leibnitz University, the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Braunschweig is involved in the Collaborative Research Center.

A strontium nuclear cloud at a few millikelvins above absolute zero in the optical lattice clock of PTB.Photo: Christian Lisdat/PTB

In DQ-mat, scientists go beyond the limits of traditional physics and are investigating the impressive world of quantum mechanics with its phenomena like entanglement and superposition that often stand in contrast to everyday experience. However, understanding the principles of quantum effects has paved the way for the development of numerous technologies such as lasers or navigation systems which are used daily today.

The understanding of and control over quantum systems which are made up of single atoms or molecules are already very advanced. In the Collaborative Research Center DQ-mat, the researchers now intend to expand this control to larger, interacting systems. "Controlling multi-particle effects first made it possible to develop, for example, quantum sensors such as atomic clocks or atomic interferometers for measuring accelerations with unprecedented accuracy and resolution," explains the Collaborative Research Center's spokesperson Professor Piet Schmidt. In addition to questions regarding production and the characteristics of such multi-particle quantum systems, the scientists also intend to push forward into new areas for fundamental physics tests. That includes, for example, questions on a potential change of nature’s constants or the search for dark matter candidates.

In the first funding period, important foundations were laid for this purpose, on which the DQ-mat researchers will build over the next four years. Using this foundation, they have, for example, tested a new sensor concept with coupled light fields, developed a novel cooling procedure to simplify quantum simulators, endeavored to take first steps toward building a quantum computer with ions, or provide evidence of the entanglement of a few thousand atoms. These activities will now be continued and they will contribute to a better understanding of physical foundations in new fields of application.

In addition, the Collaborative Research Center is working to close the gap between public awareness of quantum physics and research through the foeXlab extra-curricular school laboratory. "Quantum physics is a topic of the future, but it is usually only presented theoretically at schools. With the foeXlab, we are able to provide experimentation stations for interferometry and with real quantum light states. Schools cannot afford this due to the equipment which is required," says Schmidt. The foeXlab was successfully integrated into the educational region of Hannover and encompasses both experimentation courses for school students in secondary level II and further training opportunities for teachers and university students working toward a teaching degree.

Collaborative Research Center 1227, "Designed Quantum States of Matter" (DQ-mat) – Production, Manipulation, and Detection for metrological applications and tests of fundamental physics," began on 1 July 2016; the second funding period runs until 31 June 2024.

Prof. Dr. Piet Schmidt, Collaborative Research Center spokesperson, phone: +49 531 592 4700, E-mail: Opens window for sending emailpiet.schmidt(at)ptb.de or Opens window for sending emailpiet.schmidt(at)quantummetrology.de