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KNI Distinguished Seminar - Special Event with Condensed Matter Physics

Tuesday, April 9, 2019
3:00pm to 4:00pm
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Noyes 153 (J. Holmes Sturdivant Lecture Hall)
Making matter from light: Mott Insulators and Topological Fluids
Jonathan Simon, Associate Professor of Physics & The James Franck Institute, and IME Fellow, University of Chicago,

This special event is co-hosted by the Kavli Nanoscience Institute and the department of Condensed Matter Physics.

Speaker: Jonathan Simon, University of Chicago

Talk Title: Making matter from light: Mott Insulators and Topological Fluids


In this talk I will describe our ongoing effort at the University of Chicago to explore exotic models of condensed matter using materials made of light. Starting with a quick introduction to "light as matter," I will then explain how we imbue photons with the essential attributes of a material particle: mass, charge, and interactions. Along the way, I will introduce the two "flavors" of photons that comprise our photonics matter: optical photons trapped in Fabry-Perot cavities, and microwave photons trapped in superconducting resonators or transmon qubits. Finally, I will describe the first two materials that have emerged from our interacting photons: a Mott insulator of microwave photons and a topological fluid of optical photons. More broadly, building materials from light impacts both (a) the kinds of matter that can be assembled, and (b) the assembly process itself, providing a new window on the physics of correlated quantum matter.


Jon Simon is an associate professor of Physics & the James Franck Institute and a fellow of the Institute of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. His group's current work lives at the interface of quantum optics with topological and strongly correlated matter, creating exotic materials that cannot exist in the solid state, and developing novel probes to explore their properties. His interests range from quantum optics & quantum materials to the theory of control, Brazilian jiujitsu, and cats. Jon Simon is an alumni of Caltech, where he earned his B.S. in Physics and was a member of the Lloyd House.

Dr. Simon's lab explores the interface of condensed matter physics and quantum optics, employing tools from atomic physics, control theory, and state-of-the-art technology developed in-house. The group builds materials from light, investigates the role of topology in determining material properties, and tackles challenges at the crossroads between strong correlations and quantum coherence. Their research interests include: atomic physics, quantum optics, and feedback control, with a particular emphasis on the interface with quantum many-body physics. The group is presently exploring photonic quantum materials, photonic topological meta-materials, and hybridizing the two. Collaborative efforts include studies of circuit-QED-based quantum materials, as well as interfacing mm-wave and optical photons through Rydberg atoms.

The KNI Distinguished Seminar Series is a new monthly series hosted by The Kavli Nanoscience Institute where eminent scientists and thinkers with strong yet varied backgrounds in nanoscience and nanotechnology share their expertise with the Caltech community. Seminars consist of a one-hour presentation, followed by a Q&A and light reception. The scopes of presentations may range from: recent outstanding scientific highlights/technological advancements, to innovative early-stage research developments, to broader cross-disciplinary topics that are relevant to nanoscience. Each seminar will be recorded and made available to the public via the KNI's YouTube page.

For more information, please contact Tiffany Kimoto by phone at 626-395-3914 or by email at [email protected] or visit KNI Distinguished Seminar Series.