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Quantum simulation

ERC Starting Grant for Lode Pollet

Munich, 11/28/2012

A project devoted to the improvement of quantum simulation methods proposed by LMU physicist Professor Lode Pollet has won him an ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council. The 5-year grant is worth 1.5 million euros. ERC Starting Grants are designed to promote ground-breaking advances in basic research by enabling outstandingly creative young researchers to carry out highly innovative projects.

In the past decade, it has become clear that quantum simulators could provide a novel route to understanding the microscopic behavior of complex physical processes, which cannot be analyzed otherwise. For many systems of interest no practical simulation methods exist, and this is the reason why the basic mechanism behind such phenomena as high temperature superconductors remains controversial. A novel class of quantum simulators, based on ultracold atoms trapped in an optical lattice, offers a fresh approach to the analysis of such systems and offers hope to unravel the remaining puzzles.

“The fact that these system can be controlled and calibrated with great precision represents a significant advance,” says Pollet. In recent years the strategy has been to show that these systems faithfully reproduce the results obtained by numerical simulations, an area of research where Pollet has contributed significantly. In the next years ultracold atoms will attempt exploring physics in regimes where no numerical methods can reliably give answers. If successful, this would be a significant step toward the development of a universal quantum simulator that could mimic the behavior of any desired quantum system.

The universal quantum simulator
The goal of Pollet‘s ERC-funded project on “Quantum Simulation of Many-Body Physics in Ultracold Gases” (QUSIMGAS) is to develop new quantum Monte-Carlo methods that allow one to extend the limits of the numerically tractable portions of quantum simulation. “The new methods are based on sampling of Feynman diagrams, and should provide an overall framework for the simulation of multiparticle systems in general.” Pollet explains, "If we are successful, our methods could be used to investigate open questions in the fields of condensed-matter physics and materials science, and potentially provide key insights in superconductors and systems with long-range interactions". Pollet’s work will, however, focus on the area of ultracold gases, because they allow theoretical predictions to be tested directly against experiments.

Born in Belgium, Lode Pollet studied Structural Engineering and Physics at Ghent University, and obtained his doctorate in Physics there in 2005. His postdoctoral career began at the ETH Zürich (Switzerland), and later took him to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (USA) and Harvard University (USA). In 2010 he became a senior scientist at the ETH Zürich, and was appointed Professor of Functional Nanosystems at the LMU in 2011. göd

ERC Starting Grants
ERC Starting Grants are intended to support the work of excellent young researchers with up to 7 years of experience since completion of the PhD degree. The aim is to help awardees to establish or enlarge their own independent and effective research group. Proposals are evaluated on the basis of the scientific merit of the project and the applicant’s track record in research. The project itself must be innovative, challenging and highly interdisciplinary in character, and should have the potential to produce ground-breaking insights.

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