International exchange award: nonlinear quantum photonics

Posted on 8th July 2024 in News
Charles Downing, the recipient of one of M4QN's International Exchange awards in 2024.

Dr Charles Downing, Royal Society University Research Fellow & Proleptic Lecturer at the University of Exeter, was awarded an M4QN international exchange grant to visit Prof. Yannis Kominis (National Technical University of Athens). The 4 day visit was on 4-7 December 2023.

Explore nonlinear quantum photonics

The collaboration brings together experienced research leader Yannis (an expert in photonics, nonlinear dynamics, and wave propagation) and early-career researcher Charles (who holds interests in quantum optics and quantum technologies). In particular, the two researchers plotted out a couple of research projects to explore together within nonlinear quantum photonics, which are of mutual interest and based upon the complementary expertise of the two research teams. This in-person visit, supported by the Materials for Quantum Network, included passionate scientific debates, intense technical discussions and joint whiteboard calculations – activities which are not always possible over videocall, especially in the early stages of a rather new collaboration. The approximate roadmap of the proposed research was agreed, and the two researchers were excited about the opportunity to apply for further joint funding together (for example via an EPSRC Overseas Travel Grant) which will allow them, and their respective research teams, to benefit from regular face-to-face discussions and combined research efforts. Overall, the visit generated several novel ideas which would not have occurred to either researcher alone, which has set into motion some exciting research streams which will be carried out over the next few years, with hopes for strong publications and research grant applications to follow in due course.

Benefits to the UK materials and quantum community

Broadly, the Materials for Quantum Network aims to (i) develop an interdisciplinary research community which brings together people working across materials and quantum technologies, and (ii) identify new interdisciplinary research topics, which will ideally allow the UK to provide international leadership in quantum technology. The visit of Charles (a UK-based physicist in quantum optics and quantum technologies) to Yannis (a Greece-based researcher with a background in engineering who has interests across photonics, materials and nonlinear wave propagation) perfectly meets the desired interdisciplinary nature of the network. Their complementary backgrounds and experiences allowed Charles to provide input around the quantum aspects of the scientific discussions, while Yannis supplied expert knowledge of photonics and nonlinear systems. This harmonizing quickly led to the generation of several research ideas of mutual interest within nonlinear quantum photonics, where each party could contribute due to their specific expertise. In particular, it is hoped that this nascent collaboration can be made stronger in the oncoming years thanks to joint publications, projects and the fluid exchange of people and information. At a wider scale, the overall UK materials and quantum communities benefit from a new link being forged with one of the best technical universities in Europe (the National Technical University of Athens in Athens, Greece) which we expect to widen and diversify over the oncoming years thanks to the wealth of talent at NTUA and the convenient travel links between the UK and Athens.

New collaboration

Charles says, “Our first face-to-face meeting allowed us to solidify our emerging collaboration. We discussed two research projects which we will pursue amongst ourselves and our respective research teams. We made back-of-the-envelope calculations which hint that the full results should be rather exciting. We also discussed applying for joint funding together in the future (e.g. via the EPSRC Overseas Travel Grant scheme) which will allow our nascent collaboration to widen and flourish in the oncoming years. Due to the early stage of the research, publications arising directly from this visit are only expected to appear in a year or so.”

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