UChicago physicists to study macroscopic quantum phenomena as part of the Simons Collaboration

May 28, 2019

Dam T. Son, University Professor in the Department of Physics, and Michael Levin, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics, have been awarded a Simons Foundation grant as part of the newly established Simons Collaboration on Ultra-Quantum Matter.

The collaboration, directed by Ashvin Vishwanath, Professor of Physics at Harvard University, is one of twelve supported under the Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and Physical Sciences program, which aims to “stimulate progress on fundamental scientific questions of major importance in mathematics, theoretical physics and theoretical computer science.”

Along with fifteen theoretical physicists from eleven other institutions, Son and Levin will study quantum mechanical behavior arising in systems of large numbers of electrons or atoms. Such ultra- quantum matter (UQM), which is characterized by robust, non-local quantum entanglement, defies conventional expectations that quantum effects are important only in very small systems. UQM allows for entirely new physical properties, which may help future technologies by enabling the nonlocal storage of quantum information, and the creation of quantum materials with new functionalities.

In a notable reversal of the trend towards increased specialization, recent breakthroughs in the theory of UQM have brought together physicists working in different domains. This is reflected in the UQM collaboration team which consists of condensed matter and high energy theorists, as well as atomic and quantum information experts, who will work together on discovering the properties of new forms of UQM and help enable their realization in the laboratory.

The Simons Foundation will support this new effort by providing a grant of $8M for four years, renewable for three additional years. In addition to UChicago’s Son and Levin, the collaboration includes theoretical physics faculty from Caltech, Harvard, the Institute for Advanced Study, MIT, Stanford, University of California Santa Barbara, University of California San Diego, University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Innsbruck, University of Maryland, and University of Washington.

Son and Levin are both members of UChicago’s Kadanoff Center for Theoretical Physics, which facilitates research and education in the physical sciences through foundational investigations in theoretical physics, and the James Franck Institute, a collaborative institute for scientists working at the intersection of materials science, condensed matter physics, physical chemistry, and atomic, molecular, and optical physics.

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