Photo: M.R.Knabl

Quantum physicist Hannes Pichler has been awarded a Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC) for his theoretical research on quantum many-body physics and quantum information processing. The grant, endowed with around 1.5 million euros, is the highest award for successful young scientists in Europe.

The European Research Council (ERC) supports pioneering research by outstanding scientists in Europe. The ERC Starting Grants provide successful young researchers with highly endowed project budgets. Theoretician Hannes Pichler was appointed in 2020 from the USA to the University of Innsbruck and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Science in Innsbruck. He now receives the prestigious grant from the European Research Council and will continue to advance his research on quantum many-body physics and quantum information processing.

New platform for quantum computing

In recent years, a promising approach for designing quantum simulators and quantum computers with neutral atoms has caused quite a stir: With the help of optical tweezers, atoms are individually trapped and arranged in a wide variety of patterns. These atoms can then be manipulated by lasers and placed in highly excited states - so-called Rydberg states. Such Rydberg atoms are several thousand times larger than normal atoms and can interact with other Rydberg atoms over long distances via their loosely bound electron. "These atoms can be controlled very well and in large numbers and therefore open up new possibilities for the realization of a quantum computer," says Hannes Pichler. His research interest is the theoretical description of these systems. In the ERC project, Pichler wants to investigate in detail how the properties of Rydberg atoms can be used for applications in quantum information processing. For example, he wants to use a quantum many-body phenomenon recently discovered in these systems as a tool for generating highly entangled states. "Another goal is to explore and develop novel approaches for implementing quantum algorithms for optimization problems involving Rydberg atoms," the physicist adds. To this end, his research group is collaborating with leading experimental laboratories around the world that are implementing his concepts and suggestions in their experiments.

On Hannes Pichler

Hannes Pichler, born 1986 in Brixen, studied physics at the University of Innsbruck and received his PhD in the group of Peter Zoller. From 2016 to 2019 he was at Harvard University as an ITAMP Postdoctoral Fellow and from 2019 to 2020 at the California Institute of Technology as a Gordon and Betty Moore Postdoctoral Fellow. Pichler has been a professor of theoretical physics with a focus on quantum optics at the University of Innsbruck and a working group leader at the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) in Innsbruck since April 2020.

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