Bust of Max Planck

Highlights

Publication Highlights

Long-Range Photon Fluctuations Enhance Photon-Mediated Electron Pairing and Superconductivity

Recently, the possibility of inducing superconductivity for electrons in two-dimensional materials has been proposed via cavity-mediated pairing. The cavity-mediated electron-electron interactions are long range, which has two main effects: firstly, within the standard BCS-type pairing mediated by adiabatic photons, the superconducting critical temperature depends polynomially on the coupling strength, instead of the exponential dependence characterizing the phonon-mediated pairing; secondly, as we show here, the effect of photon fluctuations is significantly enhanced. These mediate novel non-BCS-type pairing processes, via nonadiabatic photons, which are not sensitive to the electron occupation but rather to the electron dispersion and lifetime at the Fermi surface. Therefore, while the leading temperature dependence of BCS pairing comes from the smoothening of the Fermi-Dirac distribution, the temperature dependence of the fluctuation-induced pairing comes from the electron lifetime. For realistic parameters, also including cavity loss, this results in a critical temperature which can be more than 1 order of magnitude larger than the BCS prediction. Moreover, a finite average number of photons (as can be achieved by incoherently pumping the cavity) adds to the fluctuations and leads to a further enhancement of the critical temperature.

A. Chakraborty and F. Piazza, Phys. Rev. Lett. 127, 177002 (2021)
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Publication Highlights

Cavity QED with quantum gases: new paradigms in many-body physics

We review the recent developments and the current status in the field of quantum-gas cavity QED. Since the first experimental demonstration of atomic self-ordering in a system composed of a Bose–Einstein condensate coupled to a quantized electromagnetic mode of a high-Q optical cavity, the field has rapidly evolved over the past decade. The composite quantum-gas-cavity systems offer the opportunity to implement, simulate, and experimentally test fundamental solid-state Hamiltonians, as well as to realize non-equilibrium many-body phenomena beyond conventional condensed-matter scenarios. This hinges on the unique possibility to design and control in open quantum environments photon-induced tunable-range interaction potentials for the atoms using tailored pump lasers and dynamic cavity fields. Notable examples range from Hubbard-like models with long-range interactions exhibiting a lattice-supersolid phase, over emergent magnetic orderings and quasicrystalline symmetries, to the appearance of dynamic gauge potentials and non-equilibrium topological phases. Experiments have managed to load spin-polarized as well as spinful quantum gases into various cavity geometries and engineer versatile tunable-range atomic interactions. This led to the experimental observation of spontaneous discrete and continuous symmetry breaking with the appearance of soft-modes as well as supersolidity, density and spin self-ordering, dynamic spin-orbit coupling, and non-equilibrium dynamical self-ordered phases among others. In addition, quantum-gas-cavity setups offer new platforms for quantum-enhanced measurements. In this review, starting from an introduction to basic models, we pedagogically summarize a broad range of theoretical developments and put them in perspective with the current and near future state-of-art experiments.

F. Mivehvar et al. Adv. Phys. 70, 1 (2021)
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Publication Highlights

Signatures of Quantum Phase Transitions after Quenches in Quantum Chaotic One-Dimensional Systems

Quantum phase transitions are central to our understanding of why matter at very low temperatures can exhibit starkly different properties upon small changes of microscopic parameters. Accurately locating those transitions is challenging experimentally and theoretically. Here, we show that the antithetic strategy of forcing systems out of equilibrium via sudden quenches provides a route to locate quantum phase transitions. Specifically, we show that such transitions imprint distinctive features in the intermediate-time dynamics, and results after equilibration, of local observables in quantum chaotic spin chains. Furthermore, we show that the effective temperature in the expected thermal-like states after equilibration can exhibit minima in the vicinity of the quantum critical points. We discuss how to test our results in experiments with Rydberg atoms and explore nonequilibrium signatures of quantum critical points in models with topological transitions.

A. Haldar et al. Phys. Rev. X 11, 031062 (2021)
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Publication Highlights

Cavity-induced quantum spin liquids

Quantum spin liquids provide paradigmatic examples of highly entangled quantum states of matter. Frustration is the key mechanism to favor spin liquids over more conventional magnetically ordered states. Here we propose to engineer frustration by exploiting the coupling of quantum magnets to the quantized light of an optical cavity. The interplay between the quantum fluctuations of the electro-magnetic field and the strongly correlated electrons results in a tunable long-range interaction between localized spins. This cavity-induced frustration robustly stabilizes spin liquid states, which occupy an extensive region in the phase diagram spanned by the range and strength of the tailored interaction. This occurs even in originally unfrustrated systems, as we showcase for the Heisenberg model on the square lattice.

A. Chiocchetta et al. Nat. Commun. 12, 5901 (2021)
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Publication Highlights

Carrier transport theory for twisted bilayer graphene in the metallic regime

Understanding the normal-metal state transport in twisted bilayer graphene near magic angle is of fundamental importance as it provides insights into the mechanisms responsible for the observed strongly correlated insulating and superconducting phases. Here we provide a rigorous theory for phonon-dominated transport in twisted bilayer graphene describing its unusual signatures in the resistivity (including the variation with electron density, temperature, and twist angle) showing good quantitative agreement with recent experiments. We contrast this with the alternative Planckian dissipation mechanism that we show is incompatible with available experimental data. An accurate treatment of the electron-phonon scattering requires us to go well beyond the usual treatment, including both intraband and interband processes, considering the finite-temperature dynamical screening of the electron-phonon matrix element, and going beyond the linear Dirac dispersion. In addition to explaining the observations in currently available experimental data, we make concrete predictions that can be tested in ongoing experiments.

G. Sharma et al. Nature Commun. 12, 5737 (2021)
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Publication Highlights

Reinforcement Learning for Digital Quantum Simulation

Digital quantum simulation on quantum computers provides the potential to simulate the unitary evolution of any many-body Hamiltonian with bounded spectrum by discretizing the time evolution operator through a sequence of elementary quantum gates. A fundamental challenge in this context originates from experimental imperfections, which critically limits the number of attainable gates within a reasonable accuracy and therefore the achievable system sizes and simulation times. In this work, we introduce a reinforcement learning algorithm to systematically build optimized quantum circuits for digital quantum simulation upon imposing a strong constraint on the number of quantum gates. With this we consistently obtain quantum circuits that reproduce physical observables with as little as three entangling gates for long times and large system sizes up to 16 qubits. As concrete examples we apply our formalism to a long-range Ising chain and the lattice Schwinger model. Our method demonstrates that digital quantum simulation on noisy intermediate scale quantum devices can be pushed to much larger scale within the current experimental technology by a suitable engineering of quantum circuits using reinforcement learning.

A. Bolens et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 127, 110502 (2021).
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Publication Highlights

Machine learning universal bosonic functionals

The one-body reduced density matrix $\gamma$ plays a fundamental role in describing and predicting quantum features of bosonic systems, such as Bose-Einstein condensation. The recently proposed reduced density matrix functional theory for bosonic ground states establishes the existence of a universal functional $F[\gamma]$ that recovers quantum correlations exactly. Based on a decomposition of $\gamma$, we have developed a method to design reliable approximations for such universal functionals: Our results suggest that for translational invariant systems the constrained search approach of functional theories can be transformed into an unconstrained problem through a parametrization of a Euclidian space. This simplification of the search approach allows us to use standard machine learning methods to perform a quite efficient computation of both $F[\gamma]$ and its functional derivative. For the Bose-Hubbard model, we present a comparison between our approach and the quantum Monte Carlo method.

J. Schmidt et al., Phys. Rev. Res. 3, L032063 (2021).
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Publication Highlights

Unitary long-time evolution with quantum renormalization groups and artificial neural networks

We combine quantum renormalization group approaches with deep artificial neural networks for the description of the real-time evolution in strongly disordered quantum matter. We find that this allows us to accurately compute the long-time coherent dynamics of large many-body localized systems in nonperturbative regimes including the effects of many-body resonances. Concretely, we use this approach to describe the spatiotemporal buildup of many-body localized spin-glass order in random Ising chains. We observe a fundamental difference to a noninteracting Anderson insulating Ising chain, where the order only develops over a finite spatial range. We further apply the approach to strongly disordered two-dimensional Ising models, highlighting that our method can be used also for the description of the real-time dynamics of nonergodic quantum matter in a general context.

H. Burau et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 127, 050601 (2021)
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Publication Highlights

Unraveling forces within the nucleus

Understanding how individual proteins work together to perform complex cellular processes such as transcription, DNA replication, and repair represents a crucial goal in cell biology. Transcription is a process in the nucleus where protein complexes work together to generate transcripts of RNA from genes. For proper transcriptional regulation, enhancers—short strips of DNA—must be brought into close proximity of the gene’s promoter. Given that enhancers and promoters are often located far apart within the genome, the question then arises: how do proteins bring these enhancers and promoters together in space and time? And what are the physics behind it?

Answering these questions would provide deep insights into the proper regulation of transcription in the cell nucleus. However, extracting such information is far from trivial. But recent work from the research group of Jan Brugués at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in collaboration with Frank Jülicher at the MPI for the Physics of Complex Systems has revealed an important clue: Forces. Jan’s lab is also located at the MPI for the Physics of Complex Systems and is affiliated with the Center for Systems Biology Dresden.

Interactions between liquids and solids have long been known to generate forces, such as those maintaining the tension of a spider web or those that allow insects to walk on water. However, whether such forces play a role inside the cell has remained unclear. With the development of precise biophysical methods and advanced imaging techniques, we are getting closer to not only observing such forces but also measuring them.

The Brugués lab imaged the interactions between single molecules of DNA and the transcription factor FoxA1, a protein responsible for determining cell fate in many species. They discovered that FoxA1 molecules brought distant regions of DNA together, generating forces that condensed the DNA. When the single molecule of DNA was stretched tightly — like a tightened elastic band — FoxA1 molecules could not bring DNA together. However, when the DNA molecule was floppy, FoxA1 molecules worked together to condense the DNA, overcoming the DNA’s intrinsic tension. This new information helps paint a clearer picture of the interactions between transcriptional regulators and the surface of the DNA.

Remarkably, the physics underlying these FoxA1-DNA interactions are reminiscent of the forces that maintain the tension of a spider web. Similar to how liquid droplets on a spider web generate forces that reel in broken strands of silk, FoxA1 acts as the liquid phase that condenses DNA and brings it together.

This study demonstrated how proteins work together to generate forces in the cell nucleus. Such a result opens an exciting research direction to understanding other complex processes in the cell. Thomas Quail, post-doctoral researcher in the Brugués lab says: “Our findings set forth a novel mechanism that the cell nucleus may use to organize its chromatin and DNA. It’s possible that these condensation forces generated between solid and liquid surfaces could also be relevant for other cellular bodies such as the mitotic spindle and membranes.”

T. Quail et al., Nature Physics (2021)
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Publication Highlights

Hydraulic instability decides who’s to die and who’s to live

In many species including humans, the cells responsible for reproduction, the germ cells, are often highly interconnected and share their cytoplasm. In the hermaphrodite nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, up to 500 germ cells are connected to each other in the gonad, the tissue that produces eggs and sperm. These cells are arranged around a central cytoplasmic “corridor” and exchange cytoplasmic material fostering cell growth, and ultimately produce oocytes ready to be fertilized.

In past studies, researchers have found that C. elegans gonads generate more germ cells than needed. Only half of them grow to become oocytes, while the rest shrinks and die by physiological apoptosis, a programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms. Now, scientists from the Biotechnology Center of the TU Dresden (BIOTEC), the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) at the TU Dresden, the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS), the Flatiron Institute, NY, and the University of California, Berkeley, found evidence to answer the question of what triggers this cell fate decision between life and death in the germline. Prior studies revealed the genetic basis and biochemical signals that drive physiological cell death, but the mechanisms that select and initiate apoptosis in individual germ cells remained unclear. As germ cells mature along the gonad of the nematode, they first collectively grow in size and in volume homogenously. In the study just published in Nature Physics, the scientists show that this homogenous growth suddenly shifts to a heterogenous growth where some cells become bigger and some cells become smaller.

The researcher Nicolas Chartier in the group of Stephan Grill, and co-first author of the study, explains: “By precisely analyzing germ cell volumes and cytoplasmic material fluxes in living worms and by developing theoretical modeling, we have identified a hydraulic instability that amplifies small initial random volume differences, which causes some germ cells to increase in volume at the expense of the others that shrink. It is a phenomenon, which can be compared to the two-balloon instability, well known of physicists. Such an instability arises when simultaneously blowing into two rubber balloons attempting to inflate them both. Only the larger balloon will inflate, because it has a lower internal pressure than the smaller one, and is therefore easier to inflate.” This is what is at play in the selection of germ cells: such pressure differences tend to destabilize the symmetric configuration with equal germ cell volumes, so-called hydraulic instabilities, leading to the growth of the larger germ cell at the expense of the smaller one. By artificially reducing germ cell volumes via thermoviscous pumping (FLUCS method: focused-light-induced cytoplasmic streaming), the team demonstrated that the reduction in cell volumes leads to their extrusion and cell death, indicating that once a cell is below a critical size, apoptosis is induced and the cell dies. By using confocal imaging, the researchers could image the full organism of the living worm to receive a global and precise picture of the volumes of all the gonad cells, as well as the exchange of fluids between the cells. Stephan Grill, Speaker of the PoL and director at the MPI-CBG and supervisor of the multidisciplinary work, adds: “These findings are very exciting because they reveal that the life and death decision in the cells is of mechanical nature and related to tissue hydraulics. It helps to understand how the organism auto-selects a cell that will become an egg. Furthermore, the study is another example of the excellent cooperation between biologists, physicists and mathematicians in Dresden.”

T. Chartier et al., Nature Physics (2021)
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