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Ground-state cooling and high-fidelity detection of large ion crystals in a Penning trap for quantum simulations


The understanding of the dynamics of many-body quantum systems is one of the most challenging problems in physics today. Advancing our knowledge of these systems can lead to significant benefits in the understanding of condensed matter phenomena such as high-temperature superconductivity and spin liquids but also enable insights into dense astrophysical matter as found e.g. in neutron stars. To gain controlled access to these systems and engineer their interaction, we are using some of the most precise tools in atomic physics, the Penning ion trap and laser systems, to build and investigate multi-particle systems ion by ion.

A complimentary scholarship for this project may be available through a competitive process. To find out more, refer to the Faculty of Science Postgraduate Research Excellence Award and contact Dr Robert Wolf directly.


Dr Robert Wolf, Professor Michael J. Biercuk.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The controlled simulation of dynamics in quantum-many body systems is of central interest in the pursuit to further our understanding of condensed matter phenomena. Specially designed Penning ion traps enable experimental investigations into these topics using hundreds of ions trapped simultaneously. We have recently brought online the first and only such system in Australia at the Sydney Nanoscience Hub and now routinely trap large crystals of beryllium ions. The focus of the work is on finalizing the setup of the laser-based beryllium qubit manipulation and implementing software-based state analysis. 

Lasers near 313nm are used to address electric dipole transitions in beryllium ions. These transitions can be used to effectively Doppler laser cool an ensemble of ions to ~1mK temperature, such that it forms an ion crystal – a regular and stable lattice of charged particles, formed due to the equilibrium of Coulomb repulsion and electromagnetic confinement. However, for many envisaged experiments, the residual motional temperature has to be decreased even further, close to the ground state of motion. This can be achieved by implementing so-called ground state cooling techniques using lasers with different beam geometry and characteristics. The development and setup of this system, followed by the before mentioned state-of-the-art quantum simulation and metrology experiments is a possible project. 

To investigate correlations between individual ions, or qubits, in a quantum simulation, the spin state of the ion has to be read out. This is accomplished by detecting the ion’s fluorescence photons. Ion crystals in a Penning trap rotate in the strong external magnetic field of a superconducting magnet due the Lorentz force. Therefore, a precise correlation between photon time an position is required. The setup of such detection systems and its integration into the existing experimental control software in combination with the development of algorithms employing machine learning is a possible project. 
These projects are expected to generate new knowledge in the area of quantum science and have a multitude of possible future applications in quantum technology, such as quantum scale materials, quantum sensing and quantum computation. In particular, understanding quantum magnetism is on the forefront of modern physics.

Additional information

A complimentary scholarship for this project may be available through a competitive process. To find out more, refer to the Faculty of Science Postgraduate Research Excellence Award and contact Dr Robert Wolf directly.

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Examples of inherent requirements may include: 

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)
You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2643