Realization of Nobel prize theory

 Successful simulation with ultracold potassium atoms in an optical lattice. (Gr

Successful simulation with ultracold potassium atoms in an optical lattice. (Graphic: Gregor Jotzu / ETH Zurich)

Two years ago, ETH physicist Tilman Esslinger experimentally realised a theoretical model of a new material with unusual properties in his laboratory. Today, the father of the model received the Nobel Prize.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 has been awarded to three quantum physicists, David J. Thouless, J. Michael Kosterlitz and F. Duncan M. Haldane, for their work on topological phase of matter. All three work in the field of theoretical physics. British physicist Haldane from Princeton University wrote in his key 1988 publication on the theory of a new class of materials with unusual properties: ?‘the particular model presented here, is unlikely to be directly physically realizable?’

But today’s Nobel prize winner clearly did not factor ETH Professor Tilman Esslinger into his calculations. In 2014, he and his research group succeeded in simulating the model with ultracold potassium atoms in a honeycomb lattice of laser beams using quantum gas methods developed only 15 years previously. ‘I am delighted that, thanks to our research approach, it has been possible to validate such fundamental theories,’ says Esslinger.

The Nobel prize committee view his experiment as a milestone - and reflect almost philosophically that it shows reality can sometimes surpass dreams. And, suddenly, quantum physics is quite simple to understand.

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