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Searching for a Bridge between Classical and Quantum Physics

The European Union's ERC Consolidator Grant goes to TU Professor Stephan Reitzenstein

©TU Berlin/PR/ Ulrich Dahl


The European Union's ERC Consolidator Grant, which has been awarded to TU Professor Stephan Reitzenstein of the Institute of Solid-State Physics, is both highly prestigious and well remunerated. Over the next five years, Professor Reitzenstein, who chairs the working group for Optoelectronics and Quantum Components, will receive two million euros in research funds. He said: "With our research project we were able to prevail over the best projects in all of Europe." Through its ERC Grants the European Union aims to support scientists who conduct top-level research in Europe.

The project 'External Quantum Control of Photonic Semiconductor Nanostructures' – EXQUISITE for short – deals with the production of specific nanophotonic semiconductors for optical application and their external control by means of single light particles (photons). "Roughly speaking, we are working in several sub-areas: one aspect involved our production of nanostructured semiconductor-components whose optically active elements (quantum dots) are located at a defined position in the component's centre," said Professor Reitzenstein.
As a next step, these quantum components, which initially represent so-called microlasers, are to be controlled via single-photon feedback. This enables the study of basic physical effects in the so-called quantum limit (that is, in the limit range of single photons).
The challenge lies not only in the sheer dimension of the components and the technology used – sized in the range of micrometres (10-6 m) (to give an idea of the scale involved here: a single hair has a diameter of approximately 60 micrometres) – but also in the mere detection and manipulation of single photons. "This is absolutely unknown territory that promises not only many new insights for basic research but also interesting applications – in bug-proof data transmission or in the development of innovative components in quantum technology, for instance." An interesting question in this context is: to what extent are the effects expected by classical physics (the emission of many billions of light particles) observable in the quantum range (the emission of single – and up to a few hundred – light particles)? To Professor Reitzenstein, these experiments offer a unique opportunity to establish a bridge between classical and quantum physics.

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