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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M010910/1
Title: Understanding Bose-Einstein Condensation of Light
Principal Investigator: Kirton, Dr P G
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Imperial College London
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of St Andrews
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 January 2015 Ends: 31 December 2017 Value (£): 255,469
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Light-Matter Interactions Quantum Optics & Information
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 Sep 2014 EPSRC Physical Sciences Fellowships Interview Panel 3rd, 4th and 5th Sept 2014 Announced
23 Jul 2014 EPSRC Physical Sciences Physics - July 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The search for quantum effects on macroscopic scales has fascinated many physicists over the past century. Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) is one route to such remarkable behaviour. BEC occurs in systems formed from large collections of bosons (particles which follow Bose-Einstein statistics), such as photons (the quantised particle of light), and atoms with an even number of constituent parts. A BEC forms when the temperature of a gas becomes so low that the only way the energy distribution can follow the rules of quantum mechanics is by transitioning to a phase in which many of the particles are in the single lowest energy quantum state. This causes a dramatic change in the properties of the gas as the whole ensemble behaves as a single quantum particle.

Initially it was thought that a BEC of photons could never form since the number of particles is not conserved, and so as a gas of photons is cooled the particles are absorbed by the container, and the gas does not condense. Remarkably, in 2010, around 100 years since the relevant physics was first discussed, this problem was overcome and the room temperature BEC of photons was experimentally observed. This success has opened up a whole new set of questions which must be addressed in order to maximise the potential for future experiments. These systems, while sharing many similarities with the conventional equilibrium BECs observed in ultra-cold atoms, are very different due to the finite lifetime of the particles. This gives rise to a rich variety of physical behaviour including non-equilibrium superfluidity, spontaneous quantised vortices and other exotic phenomena which I intend to explore.

My previous work has addressed the latest experimental results. However, there is significant interest in using these systems as a toolbox for understanding many-body quantum phenomena (complex behaviour requiring many interacting particles). For these applications the tools developed so far are inadequate. Systems such as these, with strong coupling and competition between coherent quantum effects and losses, are very challenging to treat, analytically or numerically. The tools I propose to develop here will provide a route to understanding the behaviour of these room temperature quantum coherent systems.
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Organisation Website: http://www.st-and.ac.uk