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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M007928/2
Title: Non-equilibrium quantum matter
Principal Investigator: Kovrizhin, Dr DL
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
CNRS Group Max Planck Institutes (Grouped)
Department: Oxford Physics
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 August 2016 Ends: 30 November 2019 Value (£): 532,741
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Cold Atomic Species Condensed Matter Physics
Quantum Optics & Information
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
The understanding of non-equilibrium quantum systems is one of the greatest challenges of modern science, as recognised by the EPSRC Grand Challenges Programme. Its development will have profound effects across different research areas including quantum computation and information, quantum optics, and biology. Theoretical understanding of these systems will form the basis for future development of new generation fast and energy efficient microchips and instruments for precise measurements.

The occurrence of non-equilibrium behaviour is very common in Nature. The simplest example of this can be found when two objects with different temperatures come into contact. Other systems can show various levels of complexity from the physical process that leads to emission of a laser beam to the ultimate case of living organisms. The common characteristic property of these systems is the absence of uniform thermodynamic quantities such as temperature.

Some of the state-of-the-art experiments in this field are made with semiconductor nano-structures in high magnetic fields and very low temperatures. In these systems electrons move in a coherent way similar to photons in a laser beam. Remarkably, because of strong interactions, the electrons in these systems form new strongly-correlated emergent states which exhibit quasi-particles with only a fraction of the electron charge. Similar quasi-particles also occur in quantum magnetic materials in the so-called spin liquid states. In the future it is hoped that these particles will be used as fundamental building blocks of topological quantum computers. The problem of quantum motion of a large number of quasi-particles is in the class of non-equilibrium quantum problems, whose study constitutes one of the main aims of this research programme.

Interestingly, many of these systems show non-equilibrium steady states. Take a piece of metal and connect it on opposite sides to a heater and a refrigerator, a configuration which will result in a steady heat flow. A similar situation occurs in a system of interacting electrons in a quantum wire connected to a battery. The important differences with the former arise from the fact that the motion of particles in the wire obeys the laws of quantum mechanics, which lead to unusual quantum states. Recently it became possible to study these states in experiments, which resulted in a number of unexpected observations e.g. PRL 96, 016804 (2006); PRL 105, 056803 (2010). Next generation experiments will build quantum devices that use and explore the physics of non-equilibrium states based on the new theoretical and experimental insights.

The project is aimed at theoretical understanding of quantum systems which are driven far from equilibrium by, for example, applied voltage or fast switching of external fields. In this setting many physical systems with examples ranging from semiconductor nano-structures and superconductors to quantum magnets and ultra-cold atomic gases show remarkable emergent behaviour (see for example PRL 105, 056803 (2010), arXiv:1308.4336, Science 331, 189 (2011), Nature Physics 8, 325 (2012) etc). This comes as a result of intricate quantum entanglement which occurs in these systems due to motion of interacting particles under non-equilibrium conditions. The properties of these systems cannot be explained using standard theoretical framework, and it is the one of the central tasks of this project to develop this theoretical description.

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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk