University Latsis Award EPFL - 2023 - Jean-Philippe Brantut
Quantum simulations with atoms and photons
For his pioneering experiments on cold atoms strongly interacting with light, and their application to quantum simulations of many-body systems.
Physicists have established that the natural world obeys quantum mechanics which underlie a wide range of remarkable phenomena in materials, atomic nuclei, and even astrophysics. However, describing and understanding quantum systems comprising many particles is an immensely challenging and often insurmountable task. In the last twenty years, a new approach known as quantum simulation has emerged to tackle the complexities of quantum systems. In this approach, a quantum machine is programmed to replicate the behaviour of these systems, offering a level of control akin to a computer simulation while using the quantum nature of the machine to capture the underlying complexity.
Jean-Philippe Brantut’s laboratory at EPFL has developed innovative platforms for quantum simulation, leveraging a unique combination of gases of lithium atoms cooled a millionth of degree above absolute zero, and photons trapped between high-reflectivity mirrors. A notable achievement of his team is the discovery a new type of optical excitations called Fermion-pair polaritons, where two atoms and one photon form hybrid compounds. Moreover, the control over light-matter interactions achieved in Brantut's laboratory allows for the synthesis and exploration of phases of matter where atoms interact over long distances by exchanging photons. This research expands our knowledge of quantum phenomena and helps uncover new states of matter.