Heriot-Watt scientists secure 3 million euros for new frontier research

A computer rendition of a cosmological white hole

Heriot-Watt University scientists have been awarded three million euros (2.35 million pounds sterling) to investigate new areas of quantum physics, looking at how energy and matter interact in a bid to revolutionise information and communication.

The two researchers, Dr Brian Gerardot and Dr Daniele Faccio at Heriot-Watt €™s Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences, will conduct research over the next five years after being awarded funds from the prestigious European Research Council (ERC).

Both projects will further understanding of how different conditions affect particles. The outcomes will add to the growing body of knowledge in nanotechnology.

Professor Alan Miller, Deputy Principal (Research & Knowledge Transfer), said, "To secure two awards from such a competitive funding scheme run by the European Research Council confirms the international competitiveness of research carried out at Heriot-Watt.

"The scale of the funding for these two research programmes over five years gives these experts the scope to really delve into some of the most complex and fundamental questions about how energy and matter interact."

The scale of the funding for these two research programmes over five years gives these experts the scope to really delve into some of the most complex and fundamental questions about how energy and matter interact.

Professor Alan Miller, Deputy Principal (Research & Knowledge Transfer)

Dr Daniele Faccio will mimic black hole conditions (where space is distorted and "sucked in") in his laboratory, using intense laser pulses. He will then examine how light behaves when it travels through a medium (e.g. air or space) that is moving at the speed of light.

This builds on Dr Faccio €™s earlier work which sought to establish evidence of Hawking radiation (see articles from The Economist and Wired) - the theory that black holes lose energy and mass over time, meaning they would eventually disappear.

Dr Gerardot will test and control how single photons and electrons (both elementary particles) interact with each other in computer chips. Dr Gerardot has proposed a new type of semiconductor device architecture that can create, transmit, receive, and process information on a large scale, paving the way for widespread use in, for instance, providing communications systems that are much faster and more secure than existing systems.

The ERC, part of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), is the first pan-European funding agency for investigator-driven frontier research designed to support the very best, truly creative scientists, scholars and engineers in going beyond established frontiers of knowledge and the boundaries of disciplines.