Quantum materials research with ultra-cold atoms and molecules

Overview of research themes and direction : experimental quantum field theory

Since the advent of laser cooling and trapping, researchers have been using ultra-cold atomic samples for the study of various fundamental physical phenomena in the domains of quantum optics, quantum transport and quantum chaos. With the more recent achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation and degenerate Fermi gases, many-body quantum systems have become a subject of intense investigation for researchers in this field. My area of research is in the application of ultra-cold atomic gases to the study of strongly correlated quantum ensembles where, because of interactions, the states of the system can develop correlations and novel behaviors beyond the scope of mean field and independent particle descriptions. The main emphasis of this research is on strongly correlated systems of particular interest and relevance to the condensed matter community.

One of the primary goals is to bridge the fundamental gap which remains between materials experiments on and the theoretical description of high-Tc superconductivity. By putting an ultra-cold gas of fermionic atoms into an optical crystal or optical lattice formed by the interference pattern of intersecting laser beams, one can realize a physical system capable of behaving like the system of electrons (also fermions) flowing in a superconducting crystal. Using this system, we hope to determine the essential conditions under which superconductivity persists at high temperatures. Approaching this and other long standing mysteries of condensed matter physics with this new experimental quantum system may provide additional information crucial to their final unraveling.

The application of ultra-cold atomic gases to the study of many-body systems is presently an area of explosive growth with relevance to quantum information technologies, quantum simulators and quantum computation, and fundamental condensed matter physics. Because of the freedom to introduce and control both the external potentials and inter-particle interactions as well as the almost perfect isolation from the environment, these systems are ideal for the realization and study of many model Hamiltonians. Moreover, in addition to providing a completely novel approach for the study of the long standing mysteries associated with high-Tc superconductivity, these atomic gases also provide an inspiring tool capable of creating completely new and unexplored experimental systems whose realization and study will no doubt reveal exotic and unanticipated phenomena further enriching and advancing the frontiers of quantum materials and condensed matter physics.

Relationship to other ongoing work here at UBC

This work falls under the domain of atom, molecular and optical physics and condensed matter physics, a domain of physics in which UBC is particularly strong. Here at UBC, there are a number of strong experimental groups in condensed matter physics as well as an excellent group of condensed matter theorists.

In particular, there is some very fine work being done in the Photonics and Nanostructures Laboratory, the Molecular Beam Epitaxy Lab, the Superconductivity Group, the Quantum Materials Laboratory, and the µSR lab of Robert Kiefl.

If you are interested in knowing more about exactly what I'm doing, please don't hesitate to contact me.

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