Physicist wins EU funds for quantum symmetries project

Ljubljana, 22 November - Physicist Zala Lenarčič, a researcher at the Jožef Stafan Institute (IJS), has received almost EUR 1.5 million in European Research Centre (ERC) funds for researchers who are just starting their independent career, the IJS said on Tuesday. She has won the grant for her five-year project DrumS, which stands for weak stimulation of quantum symmetry.

Head of her own group for non-equilibrium quantum systems at the Department for Theoretical Physics, Lenarčič will research the potential that quantum systems out of equilibrium have to form symmetries.

The IJS said that unusual symmetries are interesting in theoretical physics but almost impossible to find in nature or secure in an experiment.

DrumS will design theoretical predictions and propose protocols to stabilise exotic quantum phenomena by stimulating materials with laser and in quantum simulators.

The goal is to prove that by stimulating them, real systems with approximate symmetries can get applicable value for quantum technologies, the IJS said.

The research centre expects that the proposed concept of compensating for imperfect symmetries by stimulating them could revolutionise the field of energy harvesting, high-temperature insulators, exotic superconductivity and stability of quantum simulators.

"If the theory is followed by validation in an experiment, the DrumS project will pave the way for new functionality in quantum technologies."

The IJS illustrated the research problem at hand by giving a greenhouse as an example of a system where the quantity of energy is being retained because the loss of energy is compensated for by means of stimulation with sun rays.

Thus, a cold winder day with weak sunshine is pretty hot in a green house, and DrumS wants to show that at quantum level, weak stimulation can have a similar disproportionately large effect if the small losses resulting from non-symmetries can be compensated for.

The IJS also said that this is the sixth project for which their researchers have won ERC funds, but only the first won by a woman.