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European Research Council Advanced Grant at ICTP

Rosario Fazio wins grant to study open quantum systems

European Research Council Advanced Grant at ICTP
European Research Council Advanced Grant at ICTP

02/05/2022 - Trieste

ICTP condensed matter physicist Rosario Fazio has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant, supporting his research in quantum information and quantum dynamics.

Fazio's five-year grant, titled "UnRAVElling the dynamics of many-body open systems: Collective dynamics of quantum trajectories," or RAVE, will investigate the intricacies and collective phenomena emerging in open quantum systems, research vital for the success of developing quantum technologies.

RAVE focuses on understanding the dynamics of open quantum systems, the basis of all emerging quantum technologies. Quantum systems are often described through averages of their different configurations, but Fazio wants to investigate what dynamics and characteristics are lost when systems are described only with averages. RAVE aims to examine the characteristics of open quantum systems by looking instead at individual quantum trajectories.

Fazio explains quantum trajectories this way: "Consider an atom prepared in an excited state. It will decay and the probability that you will find it in that excited state goes to zero with a simple exponential law. This is what happens on average," says Fazio. "But if we are able to watch the atom as it decays, its dynamics will be rather different. It will stay in the excited state and at some random time will jump to the energy ground state." The individual energy states and jumps are part of the quantum trajectory of an atom. "It is the dynamics of quantum system where the  evolution follows the Schroedinger equation interrupted, at random times, by jumps."

With the ability to observe the dynamics of a group of individual quantum trajectories, a lot of interesting patterns, or collective phenomena, emerge. The theory of what patterns might happen and why is a main focus of RAVE. "Understanding emerging collective phenomena may also help in sharpening our understanding of the properties of quantum systems," says Fazio. "This is of great importance in developing efficient protocols in quantum technologies."

Fazio is one of the 253 scientists who have been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant this year, out of 1735 scientists who applied for an ERC Advanced Grant. The recently-announced award will fund the hiring of multiple postdoctoral fellows over the five years of the grant to contribute to RAVE's goals, as well as collaborations with multiple teams of researchers at other institutions. This interdisciplinary team will be contributing to work that will have quite a few implications: Fazio foresees the work will impact the fields of condensed matter, statistical physics, quantum information and stochastic thermodynamics.

Earlier this year, three other ICTP researchers were awarded ERC grants that will inject millions of euros into their cutting-edge research. In March, Ali Hassanali, of ICTP's Condensed Matter and Statistical Physics section was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to research fluorescence in biological materials, while Joan Elias Miró, a physicist in the High Energy, Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics section, received an ERC Starting Grant for a project that will tackle questions concerning the Standard Model and still-unexplored extensions of the theory.

In January, an ERC Starting Grant was awarded to ICTP researcher Jean Barbier of the Centre's Quantitative Life Sciences section, to fund a multidisciplinary project that will tackle questions concerning machine learning and neural networks using high-dimensional statistics.

The European Research Council (ERC), set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. It offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants.