Quantum Physicist Jens Eisert Receives European Research Council Grant
Theoretical physics professor at Freie Universität Berlin receives ERC Advanced Grant for his work on quantum computers
Physicist Professor Jens Eisert from Freie Universität Berlin’s Dahlem Center for Complex Quantum Systems has once again received a grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The ERC Advanced Grant will provide more than 1.8 million euros worth of funding for his research project “DebuQC,” which will run for the next five years. This is the third ERC grant that Professor Eisert has been awarded. The professor for theoretical quantum physics and his team are looking to answer some of the most pressing research questions surrounding quantum technology, as well as to explore the limits of this promising technology. ERC Advanced Grants provide support for well-established, prominent researchers who are looking to explore new fields of study.
News from Mar 30, 2023
Quantum technologies – and quantum computers in particular – are considered to be enormously promising when looking ahead to the future. Once a strange, exciting, and – above all, theoretical – idea, key players in science and industry are now in the position to actually construct quantum computers. Large companies such as Google and states such as China, the USA, and Germany, for that matter, are investing enormous sums of money in developing these new technologies. Proponents of this technology claim that quantum computers will be able to solve problems that even the fastest supercomputers today cannot solve – and all this within a reasonable amount of time. As such, the expectations surrounding these “computers of the future” are very high.
“Unlike conventional computers, quantum computers are not subject to the traditional laws of physics. They are based on the principles of quantum mechanics, which means that the computing unit makes use of individual atoms or ions, i.e., tiny, controlled physical systems. Quantum simulators have the potential to solve many of the simulation problems we face in the fields of chemistry, material sciences, or the physics of condensed matter,” says Eisert.
He also emphasizes that, from an academic perspective, quantum technology gives rise to many important and exciting questions. Perhaps the biggest question of all: What are quantum computers actually capable of? What are the questions that we can realistically ask quantum computers to solve in new and exciting ways and which tasks remain beyond their abilities? How can we systematically approach such questions?
The DebuQC project aims to explore the metaphorical limits of both our classic world and the quantum world. Supercomputers may get us to a certain point, Eisert notes, “And after this point, we would hope that quantum effects would then prove more advantageous. But where does this point lie? How many errors and how much noise can quantum computers tolerate? How can we realistically expect to apply quantum computers in practice? And which areas are they less well-suited to? Where might conventional methods still be the better option?” he asks.
DebuQC is an interdisciplinary project aimed at taking a fresh look at ideas and methods from the fields of physics, mathematics, and IT, says Eisert. This is the only way for the researchers to make tangible progress. After all, the main drive behind the project is the desire to find out what is experimentally possible – and not to simply follow the hype.
Eisert and his team are not the only ones interested in answering these questions. Many members of the research landscape in and around Berlin, for example, the MATH+ Cluster of Excellence (investigating application-oriented mathematics), Collaborative Research Center 183 (aimed at better understanding entangled states of matter), the Einstein Research Unit on Quantum Devices (in which Eisert himself acts as Chair), and the Berlin Quantum Alliance are also currently investigating quantum technologies and their potential applications.
Professor Eisert studied physics and mathematics at the University of Freiburg. He also attended the University of Connecticut, USA, after receiving a Fulbright scholarship. He received his doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Potsdam in 2001. A Humboldt Research Fellowship brought him to Imperial College London where, after having completed a junior professorship, he soon took up his first permanent academic position as a lecturer. He also spent time at the California Institute of Technology, USA, as a visiting scholar. During this time, he successfully applied for a European Young Investigators Award, the precursor to the ERC Starting Grant. He later returned to Germany, taking on a professorial post at the University of Potsdam in 2008 before spending a year at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin as a fellow. Since 2011, he has been employed as a full professor for theoretical physics at Freie Universität Berlin. Primarily based at the university’s Dahlem Center for Complex Quantum Systems, he has since been awarded his second and, now, his third ERC Grant. He is also affiliated with the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute. Professor Eisert is one of the world’s most cited researchers in the field of quantum computing and the study of complex quantum systems.
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