28 June 2021

University of Sheffield researchers awarded £6.1m to study light emitting semiconductors for quantum science and technology

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have been awarded £6.1m to study light emitting semiconductor nanostructures.

Photonic Crystal schematic

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have been awarded £6.1m to study light emitting semiconductor nanostructures. 

Led by Professor Maurice Skolnick, the programme aims to capitalise on advanced technology to discover fundamentally new regimes of nanophotonic phenomena, with potential to underpin the next generation of quantum technologies.

The team, which involves eight co-investigators at the University of Sheffield, University College London and the University of Manchester, has been awarded a £6.1m grant for this research by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 

Our research focuses on light emitting semiconductor materials. Such materials emit light very efficiently and dominate many aspects of everyday life, enabling things like the internet, large area displays, room and street lighting. Their existence relies on the high quality semiconductor structures which may be prepared by advanced crystal growth and sophisticated nanofabrication. 

Professor Maurice Skolnick

Professor of Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Sheffield

“By capitalising on this, we aim to achieve fundamental advances in quantum photonics ranging from the regimes of few photons to highly dense states containing many tens of millions of electrons, holes and photons. The findings have considerable potential to underpin next generations of quantum technologies.”

The team will research on-chip geometries, enabling scale-up as likely required for applications. Due to the strong interaction of semiconductor materials with photons the researchers will achieve interactions between photons which normally do not interact, a key requirement for logic gates operating at the level of single photons. 

This will give the researchers insight into the regime of highly non-linear phenomena at the few photon level. By coupling photons in cavities together, they are aiming for highly correlated states of photons, likely to be important components of photonic quantum processors and quantum communication systems.

The versatility of these semiconductor nanostructures will also allow access to regimes of high density where electrons and holes condense into highly populated states. This will allow the team to answer long-standing fundamental questions about the types of phase transitions that can occur in systems both in and out of equilibrium with their surroundings. The condensed state systems, besides their fundamental interest, also have potential as new forms of miniature coherent light sources.

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