The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a highly endowed grant - an ERC Advanced Grant for leading researchers in Europe - to Heidelberg physicist Markus Oberthaler. The five-year endowment will fund a Heidelberg University research project to explore the generation of quantum mechanical properties in complex systems. Of particular interest is whether there is universal behaviour to generate quantum mechanical entanglement in many-body systems. "This is not only of fundamental scientific interest but also has direct impact on the sensor technology of the future because this will allow physical quantities to be measured with far more accuracy than with the best traditional measuring devices," says Prof. Oberthaler, a researcher at the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics and a member of the Center for Quantum Dynamics. 2.4 million euros have been allocated to the project, set to begin in October 2016.
In the ERC-funded project, entitled "Entanglement Generation in Universal Time Dynamics" (EntangleGen), Prof. Oberthaler and his team will investigate the fundamental question of how quantum mechanical correlations known as entanglement form in dynamical evolving many-body systems. In order to clarify this question experimentally, the researchers will apply modern methods of atomic physics to produce and analyse these types of systems with unprecedented precision. Prof. Oberthaler points out that it is extremely difficult to detect quantum entanglement in many-body systems in which multiple particles can only be described as a quantum mechanical unit in their aggregate state rather than independently of one another. The EntangleGen project builds on a new detection method that the research group led by Prof. Oberthaler introduced to the research community two years ago. According to the Heidelberg physicist, successfully detecting a quantum mechanical entanglement could greatly advance the field of quantum metrology. In the current project, issues of basic research will therefore be combined with application aspects for tomorrow’s sensor technology.
Markus Oberthaler (born 1968) studied physics at the University of Innsbruck (Austria), earning his doctorate in 1997. After a two-year research stay at the University of Oxford (Great Britain), in 2000 he became head of an independent junior research group at the University of Konstanz funded through the prestigious Emmy Noether Programme of the German Research Foundation. In 2003 Markus Oberthaler joined the faculty of Heidelberg University as a professor of experimental physics. He directs the Synthetic Quantum Systems Research Group at the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics.
The European Research Council awards the Advanced Grant to senior researchers pursuing high-risk, ground-breaking research in their respective fields.