Assistant Professor David Weld Earns NSF CAREER Award for Work on Artificial Solids

March 03, 2016

When is a solid not a real solid? When it’s a lattice of ultra-cold atoms held in place not by the covalent and ionic bonds that bind the atoms of “real” solids together — like your chair or your cellular phone — but by light waves.

“These artificial solids are roughly a hundred million times less dense than real solids,” said David Weld, an assistant professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Physics and the principal investigator for the UC-wide California Institute for Quantum Emulation. “But they’re also much easier to control, so we can adjust their parameters quickly and precisely.”

By studying these optical lattice-based materials, Weld and his research team can emulate the behavior of electronic solids on ultrafast-equivalent timescales, thus probing some of the fastest processes in atomic physics using some of the slowest.

Using this new approach, they aim to reveal hitherto invisible ultrafast processes in matter, in regimes beyond the limits of existing theories and experiments and, perhaps, to open the door to new non-equilibrium states of matter and new quantum technologies.

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