2018 Thomas Young Medal and Prize

Professor Dieter Jaksch of the University of Oxford for his contributions to theoretical proposals enabling the study of non-equilibrium quantum many-body dynamics with unprecedented microscopic control in ultra-cold atoms, and establishing them as a quantum technologies platform.

2018 Thomas Young Medal and Prize Dieter 2018 Thomas Young Medal Jaksch

Professor Dieter Jaksch is a world leader in developing proposals for dynamically engineering non-equilibrium quantum matter by optical control. He studies a range of platforms, from synthetic quantum matter made of ultra-cold atoms to quantum materials.

His career started with a seminal proposal for achieving the superfluid to Mott insulator transition with cold atoms in an optical lattice. This work has attracted 3700 citations and ushered in a new era of quantum-state engineering by making highly controllable and microscopically understood strongly-interacting systems experimentally accessible for the first time. Dieter Jaksch subsequently developed protocols for controlling and manipulating them that are today important and widely used pillars of contemporary optical quantum technologies.

Examples include proposals for implementing entangling quantum-gates either via ultra-cold collisions or by excitation to Rydberg states, which established ultra-cold atoms as a quantum computing platform. His more recent work on non-equilibrium dynamics makes ultra-cold atoms an indispensable tool for gaining a better understanding of common principles that may underlie non-equilibrium physics across a range of platforms.

Importantly, Jaksch’s work bridges the customary confines of quantum optics and condensed matter physics, enabling cross-fertilisation between these two distinct fields. He has recently extended his studies into quantum materials, providing theoretical insights of similar impact to those from his previous work in ultra-cold gases. Jaksch introduced ideas that explain dynamical phenomena observed in optically driven solids far away from equilibrium.

Jaksch’s work demonstrated the presence and relevance of quantum coherence in such experiments, and thus connected quantum optics, solid-state physics and extreme-timescale attosecond science. His work opens new avenues for engineering quantum materials by employing coherent electron dynamics.

The first major results in this direction were recently obtained by showing how laser-cooling techniques can be translated to layered superconductors for optically controlling their critical current and increasing it beyond its equilibrium value. Similarly, he proposed inducing electron pairing through virtual optical transitions in optically driven quantum matter, expected to lead to the dynamical emergence of otherwise inaccessible quantum phases with functionally relevant macroscopic properties.

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