Physicists Reveal Quantum Secrets Using Lasers


UCF physicists are using lasers to create mini-movies showing how electrons undergo changes on the quantum level.

The technique relies on pulses of light that only last a few hundred femtoseconds; for perspective, comparing one femtosecond to a regular second is akin to comparing a second to a hundred million years.  While the technique isn’t new, Assistant Professors Michael Chini, Ph.D., and Madhab Neupane, Ph.D., along with post-doctoral student Yangyang Liu, Ph.D., have made several advancements. The time-resolved technique is unique, and the trio have managed to condense the necessary equipment to just a few square meters instead of the hundreds of meters a synchrotron typically demands.

The moving pictures produced by their setup offer new insights into the mechanisms that cause materials to undergo quantum phase transitions like becoming superconducting or magnetic. That improved understanding will guide research into making faster, more secure electronics, computing and communications.

The professors published their results this month in Review of Scientific Instruments and demonstrated the capabilities of the setup through high-resolution time-resolved ARPES measurements on two recently discovered “topological” materials – the semi-metallic compound ZrSiS, and the topological insulator Sb2Te3.

“Experiments like these are only possible through collaboration,” said Chini. “Madhab and I joined UCF at around the same time, and decided to work together to create something that combines both of our expertise. The collaboration has provided incredible benefits for my students to broaden their knowledge in a hot field like quantum materials, and for Madhab’s students to gain hands-on training in optics and lasers.”

This study was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and was conducted in collaboration with Arjun Pathak from SUNY Buffalo State, and Dariusz Kaczorowski from Polish Academy of Science in Poland.


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