Three research projects closely connected to the "International Max Planck Partnership" have received major grants from the European Research Council (ERC).


Free space photon atom coupling - the art of focusing

Professor Gerd Leuchs, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Twists and more: the complex shape of light
Professor Miles Padgett, University of Glasgow

Massive-Object Quantum Physics
Professor Roman Schnabel, Leibniz Universität Hannover


The awards were made through the ERC’s Advanced Grant competition which is part of the EU’s Seventh Research Framework Programme FP7.

Professor James Hough, UK Director of the IMPP, said: “Having three of our IMPP partners secure major ERC grants underlines the wide spectrum of world-leading research spanned by our partnership.”

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: “The ERC funds researchers who are at the top of their game, and we need this talent in Europe. Their creativity and hard work creates knowledge that is valuable in itself, but that often also has a positive impact on our society and economy. That is why the ERC budget will receive a major funding boost under Horizon 2020.”


Free space photon atom coupling - the art of focusing

A conceptually simple but radically new approach will be explored and developed: the interaction of light with a single atom in free space. No experiment has yet come close to the highest possible coupling efficiency attainable in such a fundamental system. The usual way of enhancing light-matter coupling is to place an atom inside a cavity. Another approach that does not use a cavity involves placing the atom in the near field of a plasmonic antenna. The free space approach, however, is special: a light field matched to the atomic dipole provides many desired aspects of fully efficient coupling without modifying the spectrum of the field modes. At the heart of the project proposed here is a deep diffraction-limited parabolic mirror, which can provide the required aberration-free focusing of a vectorial dipole wave over the full 4¼ solid angle ­ a true challenge to optics. Perfectly efficient free space coupling to a single quantum system will be a novel building block for numerous applications. In addition, the experimental set-up will allow for the studying of other open questions at the foundation of optics and quantum optics related to full solid angle focusing.


Twists and more: the complex shape of light

A central theme of this ERC project is to use the measurement of orbital angular momentum, the degree of the light’s twist, as a new imaging and sensing modality. But twists are not the only complex shape possible. This project will apply random complex shapes of light beams to surface imaging. The new approach will enable full 3D reconstruction of images using only a few single element detectors.Beyond classical beams, single photons can be shaped and measured too. Quantum correlations between twisted and complex-shaped photon pairs will enable new demonstrations of quantum behaviour and deliver imaging performance beyond the classical limit.