Innizer Prize for Francesca Ferlaino

Francesca Ferlaino has been awarded the Cardinal Innitzer Prize for Natural Sciences 2021 last weekend in Vienna for her outstanding achievements in the field of ultracold quantum gases. Her pioneering work with lathanoid atoms has been internationally groundbreaking in this field.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn awarded 26 scientists with the Cardinal Innitzer Prize at the Archbishop’s Palace in Vienna on Saturday. This year, due to the cancellation of last year’s award ceremony caused by the pandemic, the 2020 and 2021 prizes were awarded together. Named after Vienna Archbishop Cardinal Theodor Innitzer (1875-1955), the science prize is one of the most prestigious awards of its kind in Austria. It has been awarded by the Archdiocese of Vienna since 1962 and is supported by the Federal Ministry of Science, several provinces, as well as banks, insurance companies and the Chamber of Commerce. The list of laureates reads like a “who’s who” of Austrian science.

Francesca Ferlaino was awarded this year’s Cardinal Innitzer Prize for Natural Sciences for her pioneering work with ultracold quantum gases. Her work with lathanoid atoms was particularly highlighted. “As a scientist, you have made a difference when others jump on the bandwagon – nowadays, more and more physicists around the world are working with precisely these atoms. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that Ferlaino has done true pioneering work,” said laudator Ulrike Diebold from TU Wien.

Narrow inner-shell orbital transition

For the first time, we experimentally observe the transition at 1299nm in atomic erbium. We demonstrate coherent control and perform a detailed study of the transition parameters. Among the large variety of different energy levels available in erbium, the transition at 1299nm is of particular interest due to the associated narrow linewidth. In our experiment, we were able to measure an excited state lifetime of 178(19)ms, which corresponds to a linewidth of 0.9(1)Hz. In particular, we demonstrated the ability to control the atomic population in a coherent manner. In addition, in collaboration with G. Hovhannesyan and M. Lepers from the Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Carnot de Bourgogne, we present experimental results as well as theoretical calculations on the atomic polarizabilities for the involved atomic states, indicating opportunities for the realization of magic-wavelength or magic-polarizability conditions.

Our work has been published in Physical Review Research.

Welcome to Samuel

Welcome to Samuel, who has joined the T-Reqs team as PhD Student. Sam joined us from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Duhram University (England), where he worked for his master thesis under the supervision of Prof.  Simon Cornish.


Our 2D Supersolid now in Nature!

Quantum matter can be solid and fluid at the same time – a situation known as supersolidity. The Er-Dy team has now created for the first time this fascinating property along two dimensions. Congrats to Matt, Claudia and the whole team!

Quantum gases are very well suited for investigating the microscopic consequences of interactions in matter. Today, scientists can precisely control individual particles in extremely cooled gas clouds in the laboratory, revealing phenomena that cannot be observed in the every-day world. For example, the individual atoms in a Bose-Einstein condensate are completely delocalized. This means that the same atom exists at each point within the condensate at any given time. Two years ago, the research group led by Italian born Francesca Ferlaino from the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck and the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Innsbruck managed for the first time to generate supersolid states in ultracold quantum gases of magnetic atoms. The magnetic interaction causes the atoms to self-organize into droplets and arrange themselves in a regular pattern. “Normally, you would think that each atom would be found in a specific droplet, with no way to get between them,” says Matthew Norcia of Francesca Ferlaino’s team. “However, in the supersolid state, each particle is delocalized across all the droplets, existing simultaneously in each droplet. So basically, you have a system with a series of high-density regions (the droplets) that all share the same delocalized atoms.” This bizarre formation enables effects such as frictionless flow despite the presence of spatial order (superfluidity).

New dimensions, new effects to explore

Until now, supersolid states in quantum gases have only ever been observed as a string of droplets (along one dimension). “In collaboration with theorists Luis Santos at Leibniz Universität Hannover and Russell Bisset in Innsbruck we have now extended this phenomenon to two dimensions, giving rise to systems with two or more rows of droplets,” explains Matthew Norcia. This is not only a quantitative improvement, but also crucially broadens the research perspectives. “For example, in a two-dimensional supersolid system, one can study how vortices form in the hole between several adjacent droplets,” he says. “These vortices described in theory have not yet been demonstrated, but they represent an important consequence of superfluidity,” Francesca Ferlaino is already looking into the future. The experiment now reported in the journal Nature creates new opportunities to further investigate the fundamental physics of this fascinating state of matter.

New research field: Supersolids

Predicted 50 years ago, supersolidity with its surprising properties has been investigated extensively in superfluid helium. However, after decades of theoretical and experimental research, a clear proof of supersolidity in this system was still missing. Two years ago, research groups in Pisa, Stuttgart and Innsbruck independently succeeded for the first time in creating so-called supersolids from magnetic atoms in ultracold quantum gases. The basis for the new, growing research field of supersolids is the strong polarity of magnetic atoms, whose interaction characteristics enable the creation of this paradoxical quantum mechanical state of matter in the laboratory.

The research was financially supported by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and the European Union, among others.

Goodbye to Bing

Bing Yang is moving to the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) as Associate Professor. Congratulation Bing! We wish you great success in your next adventure in physics.