After an MSc in Advanced Physics, I am pursuing a PhD in Experimetnal Quantum Optics
University of Strathclyde
The most exciting thing that's happened this year in my research area:
Google’s Quantum Computer.
The scientists at google have successfully built a “computer” that operates on quantum principles. Such a computer is firstly an engineering marvel, and also a proof of principle that Quantum Mechanics works even on such scales. This computer will be used to test out quantum algorithms and perhaps see application in modelling chaotic systems such as weather models.
(Pictured above – Google’s Sycamore Quantum Processor)
My latest work:
I work on a Quantum Gas Microscope. This is essentially a camera with resolution enough to see individual atoms (with a few tricks). We use high intensity lasers to trap Potassium atoms in a vacuum. We then shake them with Raman lasers to make them emit light and we take a picture! Below is what a typical picture looks like (each bright spot is a single atom of Potassium!).
We are very interested in understanding Superconductivity – the phenomenon when a material has zero resistance to electricity. If you put any current into a superconducting loop it will keep flowing forever.
There are a lot of amazing applications for this such as in quantum computing, high power electromagnets, magnetic levitation trains, and so on. Our mobile phones are computers much smaller and much more powerful than the biggest computers even 50 years ago. This became possible because of semi-conductor devices. Similarly, superconductor based devices could dramatically change what’s possible.
Scientists have discovered certain materials which are superconductors, but they only show these properties at extremely low temperatures (-100 celsius). The internal structure of these materials are also not well understood. We use this setup and our high resolution imaging as a “material we can customize”. We can change the properties of this “material” (which in our experiment is a sheet of atoms held in place by lasers) just by configuring our lasers and magnetic fields, hence we can explore how different materials behave in different conditions without having to make and test new materials (which is both difficult and expensive).
My favourite misconception about my area of science:
Quantum Physics is pretty crazy. It’s perhaps the most insane thing we have learnt about nature.
However, quantum physics (and particularly “Quantum Entanglement”) is often misrepresented to mean something like “Everything is connected” or other new age spiritualistic interpretations. There are even well read books, expensive seminars which talk about “Quantum Healing”. Sadly, quantum theory doesn’t give us such abilities. But it’s still very very cool!