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Collective effects and optomechanics in ultra-cold matter

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ColOpt (Collective effects and optomechanics in ultra-cold matter)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

The network “Collective effects and optomechanics in ultra-cold matter” (ColOpt) will train early-stage researchers (ESR) in fundamental science and applications in the areas of cold atom and quantum physics, optical technologies and complexity science. It consists of nine academic nodes and three companies from six European countries, supported by two partners in Brazil and the USA, and eight further non-academic and academic partners in Europe.

Collective, nonlinear dynamics and spontaneous self-organization are abundant in nature, sciences and technology. Building on this interdisciplinary relevance, a particular novelty of ColOpt is the integration of classical and quantum self-organization. The research program focuses on collective interactions of light with laser-cooled cold and quantum-degenerate matter. We will explore innovative control of matter through opto-mechanical effects, identify novel quantum phases, investigate light transport in strongly scattering and disordered systems, enhance knowledge of long-range coupled systems and advance the associated trapping, laser and optical technologies, establishing new concepts in quantum information and simulation.

The relevance of this work for society emerges from four main strands and motivations;
1. To achieve a deeper understanding of non-equilibrium quantum systems is a mayor quest from a fundamental point of view, as this underpins our understanding of how quantum systems interface with each other and the classical world.
2. To build new Quantum Technologies on non-trivial quantum aspects as entanglement is potentially a way to provide a revolution in applications as secure communication, computation, material science and sensing.
3. To understand complex systems with nonlinear interactions, memory and feedback in physics and to foster the ability of transfer of this knowledge to more complex systems in biology, ecology, economy, …
4. To provide the skilful and responsible researchers, who are able to drive the technological innovation and have an understanding of potential impacts and can participate as informed citizens in societal discussions.

The work is organized in four scientific work packages with the objectives
1. To demonstrate novel self-organized spatial states of cold classical and quantum degenerate matter (WP1)
2. To implement novel trapping geometries and complex light fields for quantum information (WP2)
3. To advance collective scattering and coupled dipole dynamics in dense atomic samples (WP3)
4. To advance the supporting laser technology (WP4)
The main aspect of the initial phase of the network was the training of our early stage researchers (ESR). A cohort of 15 ESRs was recruited and is now between 7 and 22 months within their projects. We delivered four week-long network training events mainly for scientific training and progress reports and two three-day long residential courses for transferable skills training and cohort building. In addition to the network level training our researchers have many opportunities for individual training at their home institutions and external conferences.

We launched the ambitious research projects addressing the scientific objectives of ColOpt. All projects are making good progress. We highlight the following results
1. Researchers from the CNRS identified and characterized experimentally spatio-temporal instabilities on large, dense clouds of atoms. The work has relevance to achieve large, high density atomic clouds for scattering experiments and quantum technologies but could serve also as laboratory test bed for large scale radiation induced structures in astrophysical context.
2. Researchers from the University of Strathclyde demonstrated that optomechanical structures and solitons in a cavity with cold atoms start to rotate as a whole, if the pump beam is not a simple, uniform plane wave but contains orbital angular momentum. This has relevance for transport properties in self-organized phases and for control of trapping atoms and potentially other nanoparticles.
3. Researchers from the University of Milano studied the vibrational modes of a two atom “molecule”, in which the atoms are bound to each other by light forces. They demonstrate that long-term stability is only possible with an extra cooling mechanism. This has principle relevance for trapping and cooling schemes influenced or enabled by optical binding.
4. Resarchers from Toptica achieved good progress towards a miniaturized narrow-band diode laser. This is expected to make quantum sensors more robust, compact and less expensive to enable a broader uptake of quantum technologies.

Building on the training and the scientific workpackages, the dissemination and outreach activities delivered under WP7 are progressing as planned. The first publications with ESRs in coauthorship are published or submitted. 47% of papers are collaborative between ColOpt partners.
ColOpt has a cohort of 15 highly trained and highly skilled abled to excel in and to drive innovation in a wide range of areas underpinned by STEM skills. In particular, ColOpt researchers will be in an excellent position to drive the emerging quantum technologies and the so-called second quantum revolution, an innovation field identified to be crucial for the European economy and research base by the European Commission (QT flagship) and many national governments. The fact that three of twelve beneficiaries of ColOpt are companies provides an important powerful message on the relevance of inter-sectoral training and interaction and the commitment of industry to contribute to skill development to ESRs.

The long-term research vision of the ColOpt partners is to advance the fundamentals and applications of mesoscopic cold atom physics, out-of-equilibrium quantum physics and quantum technologies and the understanding of complex quantum systems considerably with the expected results to
1. Demonstrate novel phase transitions and quantum phases including supersolids and long-range coupled systems.
2. Advance out-of-equilibrium and nonlinear quantum physics in self-organized states and cavity cooling.
3. Demonstrate unprecedented control of matter via self-assembly and complex structured light field and provide a better understanding of optical binding.
4. Provide an understanding of transport properties of light in dense, disordered sample and the possibility of the complete suppression of transport (so-called Anderson localization).
5. Advance the underpinning technology by providing lasers and spatial light modulators with either higher performance or better usability and affordability.

Awareness of the need and benefits of connecting to different communities and in particular to the general public is an important aim of ColOpt. ERSs provided laymen descriptions of their projects on the ColOpt website. On the ColOpt Science Day all ESR engaged interactively with the public of all ages visiting the Glasgow Science Centre. A public evening lecture cosponsored by ColOpt with the title “Time, Einstein and the coolest stuff in the universe” explained ColOpt relevant subjects of laser cooling and Bose-Einstein condensation at a higher level to the interested public. ESRs took responsibility in running student chapters from OSA/EPS Young Minds and engaged further in outreach events including Girl’s day and career activities.
Spatio-temporal dynamics of a large cloud of atoms driven by radiation pressure (project 1.2, CNRS)
Colopt logo
Colopt_ESRs at Outreach Event
Numerical simulation of a spontaneous structure in a cavity (project 2.2, USTRAT)