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Basic research

60 million for a new Center of Excellence at SDU

Denmark will soon have 11 new basic research centres. One of them will be placed at Mads Clausen Institute at SDU's Faculty of Engineering. Supported by DKK 60 million, the center will research quantum technology, which may impact future communication and information processing.

By Sune Holst, , 6/8/2022

With DKK 60 million in hand, SDU professor N. Asger Mortensen will now start hiring a string of researchers for a new Center of Excellence, called the Center for Polariton-driven Light-Matter Interactions (POLIMA), that will be investigating light, ultra-thin materials and quantum physics. This means that Nano Optics at the Faculty of Engineering will be able to take a research field, where they are already world leaders, to new heights.

- It gives us completely new opportunities to understand how light interacts with materials in very extreme situations, situations we have a chance to influence with the use of nanotechnology and materials science. It brings us into a new regime where we have never been before, says Professor N. Asger Mortensen.

Basic research is crucial

His research lies at the interface between classical electrodynamics and quantum physics.

The field of study can be a landmark in terms of how the optical technology, that has already revolutionized our everyday life, will find application in future quantum technology for use in pretty much everything that has to do with communication and information processing.

Basic research is crucial for great discoveries. When we talk on the phone, use computers, and get medicine, it is because there was basic research into how exactly these things work half a century ago. We use basic research to understand.

With a Center of Excellence, there is a basis for providing completely new things beyond what we can imagine here and now

N. Asger Mortensen, professor

- The often-highlighted examples of quantum technology are quantum encrypted communication and quantum computers. Still, with a Center of Excellence, there is a basis for providing completely new things beyond what we can imagine here and now. Phenomena and technologies that we currently have no idea about what they will become. In short: basic research in its purest essence.

And that this is groundbreaking and landmark research is backed by international reviewers who have helped recommend the establishment of the new centre. They emphasize that POLIMA creates the opportunity to "efficient control of optical fields down to the quantum level" and "engineer new states of matter and optical properties that are otherwise difficult to achieve".

Incubator for the top researchers of the future

N. Asger Mortensen receives 60 million for establishing the new POLIMA centre for hiringresearchers, including 8 PhD students and six postdocs. In addition, five assistant professors are attached to the centre, which also includes another world-leading pioneer in nano optics - Sergey Bozhevolnyi. 

The Mads Clausen Department

The Mads Clausen Department at the Faculty of Engineering has carried out pioneering research activities within nanoscience over the past fifteen years, both at Center Nano Optics in Odense and Center NanoSYD in Sønderborg. Both centres are strongly involved in Physics and Technology education at SDU.

POLIMA is located as a new basic research centre under the Mads Clausen Institute and significantly expands the basic research part of future nanoscience. POLIMA thus creates, together with the existing centres, a basis for both unique research and development activities and teaching activities in photons, materials, and quantum physics.

POLIMA creates the optimal framework for educating the next generation of first-class researchers. And this is, of course, something that pleases the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at SDU, Henrik Bindslev.

- If quantum technology is a new era, we must ensure that our graduates are equipped to act in that field. POLIMA will be an environment that provides an excellent platform for learning these competencies. We have a good sense of which competencies will be central for future engineers in this field but want to ensure that they work with some very complicated and challenging problems, says Henrik Bindslev.

State-of-the-art laboratories

Overall, the center's ambition is to establish a strong link with the educational environment.

Nano-Optics at SDU already has state-of-the-art laboratories by previous grants, including a grant from the 'VILLUM Investigators' program that N. Asger Mortensen received in 2017 and a prestigious ERC grant for Sergey Bozhevolnyi.

The new basic research centre will be established for six years with the possibility of extension for four years, subject to a satisfactory evaluation after approx. five years. Read more about the Centers of Excellence here.


Editing was completed: 08.06.2022