X-ray quantum optics expert

image: Adriana Pálffy-Buß has been appointed to the new W2 Chair for Theoretical Quantum Information and Quantum Optics at the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy at JMU Würzburg.
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Adriana Pálffy-Buß has been appointed to the new W2 chair for theoretical quantum information and quantum optics of the pole of excellence ct.qmat – Complexity and topology of quantum matter. The chair was newly created at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg. Pálffy-Buß is an expert in the new research field of X-ray quantum optics, which uses extremely short-wave X-ray radiation instead of visible light to study the tiniest of particles. This could become relevant for non-destructive imaging techniques and make a decisive contribution to fundamental research in quantum physics. To highlight the importance of quantum physics and technologies, the first global Quantum Day will be celebrated on April 14, 2022.

Fast photons for data transmission

Until now, digital information was transmitted by relatively slow electrons circulating in semiconductors. A research approach of the ct.qmat Pole of Excellence is dedicated to the possibility of using much faster photons instead – that is, light particles. So far, the Würzburg quantum optics experts from ct.qmat have focused on the interaction of light and electrons. Electrons are small particles that form the shell of atomic nuclei. In the transmission of information, each material – be it a chip, an Internet cable or a sensor – is in turn made up of regularly arranged atoms, the “atomic network”. For their experiments, the researchers use visible light with wavelengths between 0.4 and 0.8 micrometers. The quantum effects that result from the interaction between photons and these materials or their atomic lattices are the focus of the Würzburg-Dresden center of excellence ct.qmat.

“I am happy that we can expand the research field of quantum optics in Würzburg into the field of X-ray physics with Adriana Pálffy-Buß. With her, we have gained a renowned expert in light-matter interaction who will continue our Würzburg X-ray tradition – and in a completely new quantum direction. The quantum properties of X-ray photons themselves are the focus of attention and we hope for innovative and original research perspectives and approaches”, underlines the door -spokesman of the Würzburg Cluster, Ralph Claessen, Professor of Experimental Physics at JMU Würzburg The tradition of X-rays at the Würzburg site goes back a long way, since it was at the local university that Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered the radiation that will carry his name later.

X-ray physics and quantum optics

Adriana Pálffy-Buß has developed theoretical models for the interaction of light and matter that focus on the atomic nucleus itself rather than electrons. It does this by using X-rays instead of visible laser light. Indeed, high-energy light quanta are needed to study the behavior and structure of atomic nuclei. While electrons in the atomic shell are excited by optical laser light, X-ray photons with up to 150,000 times greater energy are needed to excite atomic nuclei.

Central to the still new field of X-ray quantum optics are the effects that arise in the atomic nucleus through the interaction with X-rays. The interaction of X-ray photons with atomic nuclei could open up new possibilities for materials research: “Perhaps X-ray photons could be used for information transport in the future, or new applications such as X-ray lasers might emerge,” says Claessen. .

In 2019, Adriana Pálffy-Buß received the Röntgen Prize from the Justus Liebig University Giessen and the Hertha Sponer Prize from the German Physical Society for her theoretical models of X-ray quantum optics. Her theoretical considerations on “strong coupling” X-rays and atomic nuclei have been experimentally confirmed.

Würzburg as the current highlight of an excellent career

“Würzburg is not only the birthplace of X-rays, but also an incredibly exciting research environment for quantum physics thanks to the Cluster of Excellence. I am very happy to be able to benefit from this,” says Adriana Pálffy-Buß, who recently worked at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg on a Heisenberg Fellowship from the German Research Foundation. After studying physics in Bucharest, she obtained her doctorate at the University of Giessen in 2006. From 2011, she headed the nuclear and atomic quantum dynamics group at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics. In 2014, she obtained her habilitation at the University of Heidelberg. Since 01.04.2022, Adriana Pálffy-Buß has held the W2 Chair for Theoretical Quantum Information and Quantum Optics at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg. Here, she strengthens the field of photonics in the Pole of Excellence ct.qmat, in addition to the junior professor position of Sebastian Klembt created in 2020.

Roentgen at JMU

In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen made a groundbreaking discovery at the Institute of Physics at the University of Würzburg. During experiments with electron beams in vacuum tubes, he found the “X-Strahlen”, known today as X-rays. For the first time they allowed to take a look ” deep in the world”. For his discovery, Röntgen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.

Center of Excellence ct.qmat

The Center of Excellence ct.qmat–Complexity and topology in quantum matter is a joint research collaboration between Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and Technische Universität (TU) Dresden since 2019. More than 270 scientists from 34 countries and four continents carry out research on topological quantum materials that reveal surprising phenomena under extreme conditions such as high temperatures, high pressures or strong magnetic fields. The cluster of excellence is funded within the framework of the excellence strategy of the federal and state governments, as the only cluster in Germany that crosses the borders of the federal states.

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