8 September 2011

Peter Lodahl new professor of quantum photonics at NBI

The Niels Bohr Institute has just appointed a new professor, Peter Lodahl, and in doing so have added an entirely new field of research, quantum photonics, which is a fusion of quantum optics and nanophysics. He is bringing his research group of nine researchers with him. The research could pave the way for quantum communication.

Peter Lodahl is a new professor of quantum photonics at NBI. Quantum photonics is an entirely new field of research, which is a fusion of quantum optics and nanophysics.

Peter Lodahl received his M.Sc. in Physics from Aarhus University in 1997 and his PhD in Quantum Physics from the University of Copenhagen in 2000. He has had an international career as a researcher at the prestigious universities, Caltech in the US and Twente University in Holland. In 2005 he returned to Denmark to DTU, where he built up his own research group, Quantum Photonics, which grew to 9 members. Now he has received a professorship at the Niels Bohr Institute and he is very much looking forward to it.

"I am very excited and looking forward to becoming a part of the very exciting scientific research environment, which is top notch”, says Peter Lodahl in his new office, which is still half empty, as the move is not quite complete. From the office he has a wonderful view over Fælledparken, while the laboratories are deep down in the basement, where there are no vibrations from the traffic on Blegdamsvej. It is extremely important for experiments in quantum optics laboratories that there are no vibrations. He is having three laboratories built and the workmen are busy building the rooms. Then the experiments need to be installed and here it is only the researchers themselves who can build the complex setups, which are comprised of large tables with a forest of mirrors to send laser light through the labyrinthine routes and measuring equipment that can register quantum optical measurements with extreme precision on an atomic level.

Building a bridge between quantum optics and nanophysics

It is a new and very promising research field, Peter Lodahl has brought with him – it is both quantum optics, which has traditionally worked with quantum optical experiments using atomic gases and then it is nanophysics, which traditionally works with solid materials.
"If advanced quantum communication is to become a practical reality, you cannot use ultra-cold atoms in gaseous form, but rather solid materials as computers are built using chips which are solid (semiconducting materials) in a circuit”, explains Peter Lodahl, who is therefore working to build a bridge between the two research fields.

The solid materials he is working with are so-called quantum dots, which are ‘artificial’ solid atoms. Quantum dots consist of thousands of atoms embedded in nanophotonic structures, the so-called photonic crystals. The interaction between a quantum dot and a single photon in a photonic crystal can be so powerful that quantum optical effects can be observed.

Peter Lodahl is bringing his research group with him, which consists of an assistant professor, three postdocs, three PhD students and one graduate student.