Former EPFL PhD student wins SPS Prize

Edodardo Baldini. Credit: E. Baldini

Edodardo Baldini. Credit: E. Baldini

Edoardo Baldini, a former PhD student in the labs of Majed Chergui and Fabrizio Carbone, has won the IBM Prize of the Swiss Physical Society.

Since 1991, the Swiss Physical Society (SPS) has been awarding prizes in various categories, donated by various renowned institutions and companies, to ensure that Switzerland continues to maintain its high level of research quality.

One these Prizes is the Award in Condensed Matter Physics, which is sponsored by IBM. This year, it went to Edoardo Baldini who carried out his PhD at the EPFL under the supervision of Professors Majed Chergui and Fabrizio Carbone. Currently at MIT, Baldini also won a Chorafas Prize and a Springer Prize for his PhD thesis, “Nonequilibrium Dynamics of Collective Excitations in Strongly Interacting and Correlated Quantum Systems”.

Baldini will receive the Award at a special ceremony during the SPS 2019 meeting in Zurich.

Project description

In his thesis, Baldini used cutting-edge ultrafast spectroscopic tools, to explore the dynamical behavior of so-called “quantum materials”. This term refers to a wide class of solids that hosts exotic quantum phenomena of fundamental and technological interest. Notable examples of such exotic phenomena include high-temperature superconductivity, unconventional magnetism, and multiferroicity. More specifically, Baldini investigated the dynamical evolution of “collective excitations”. Among them, we find phonons (i.e. quanta of lattice vibrations in crystals), magnons (i.e. quanta of spin waves in magnets), plasmons (i.e. quanta of plasma oscillations in metals), and excitons (i.e. quanta of electronic energy in semiconductors). Understanding their dynamical behavior holds promise for future technology, especially in relation to solar energy conversion (photocatalysis, photovoltaics), biomedical sciences, magnetic data storage, and ultrafast signal processing.

Among the numerous results he obtained in his thesis, Baldini revealed the dynamics of phonons in high-temperature superconductors and unveiled the existence of a novel type of excitons in certain transition metal oxides. Besides their fundamental implications, these discoveries open avenues for novel applications. Indeed, phonons and excitons can sense the external environment and monitor fast dynamical phenomena occurring in devices. Furthermore, phonons and excitons can be controlled through other collective excitations or through external laser pulses. This, in turn, can lead to new functionalities in next generation devices based on these material systems.