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An optical bench showing some of the optical components needed to realise a state-of-the-art cold molecule experiment.

Professor Simon Cornish of the Quantum Light and Matter (QLM) research section  has been awarded a prestigious UKRI Frontier Research Grant: “SimPoMol – Quantum Simulation with Ultracold Polar Molecules” The grant is for £2.6 million  and started on 1st October.

The award builds on the world-leading activity Professor Cornish has established at Durham over the last twenty years.

In the burgeoning field of quantum science one of the most exciting ideas is quantum simulation – emulating one physical system that might be difficult to study in practice with a more experimentally amenable one. In the Durham experiments atoms and molecules cooled to less than one-millionth of a degree above absolute zero will be held in space to an exquisite precision with laser beams.

Professor I G Hughes, Head of QLM, commented: “We as a section are delighted that the ultracold RbCs activity within our group is flourishing, and congratulate Professor Cornish on securing this additional funding. We look forward to hearing more about exciting results on molecular arrays, quantum gas microscopy and quantum gates between molecules.”

Head of Department, professor Paula Chadwick added “ This is great news and shows that Durham Physics is at the forefront of state-of-the-art experiments in the cutting-edge fields of quantum science and technology ”.

The goal of SimPoMol is to synthesise and study artificial quantum materials using ultracold RbCs molecules arranged in regular arrays in order to probe novel quantum phenomena in strongly interacting quantum systems. The use of molecules is motivated by their rich internal structure, combined with the existence of controllable long-range dipole-dipole interactions, long trap lifetimes and strong coupling to electric and microwave fields.

Strongly-interacting many-body quantum states lie at the heart of phenomena such as the fractional quantum Hall effect, high-temperature superconductivity and exotic forms of magnetism. Understanding how these phenomena emerge is often computationally intractable and remains one of the great challenges of modern physics. A promising route to conquering this challenge is to use a highly controllable artificial quantum system to simulate the physics believed to underpin the behaviour observed in more complex, real materials.

Image shown above: an optical bench showing some of the optical components needed to realise a state-of-the-art cold molecule experiment.