Our understanding of the Universe and its fundamental constituents is conveyed by the Standard Model of particle physics and by General Relativity. Despite the many experimental verifications, these two frameworks famously fail to describe 95% of the constituents of the Universe, including the so-called dark matter. Dark matter and any proof of physics beyond the Standard Model have so far eluded direct observation, but compelling indirect evidence has pushed the scientific community to devise increasingly sophisticated detection methods. In this context, quantum technology allows the realisation of the most precise and sensitive scientific instruments ever built.
This PhD project aims at harnessing the huge potential of new and emerging quantum technologies to provide a significant step forward in this exciting quest. You will construct an ultra-advanced atomic clock based on cold and trapped highly-charged ions, which are the most sensitive elements for temporal and spatial variations of the so-called fine structure constant. In the case a variation of the "ticking" of the clock is observed, it will provide the first direct and quantitative evidence of violations of the Standard Model, with huge implication on our understanding of the Universe and the origin of dark matter.
PhD funding is for 3 and a half years. You will join our interdisciplinary team in the building up of a new experimental setup aiming at producing, cooling, trapping and interrogating highly charged ions of Californium. To do so we will blend several different techniques including cryogenics, ultra-high vacuum, laser cooling, charged particles optics and atomic clock technology. All this will allow us to realise the world most sensitive detector to variations of the fine structure constant and probe large uncharted territories of the dark sector.
This PhD project is part of the QSNET international collaboration that includes the Imperial College London, the University of Sussex, the National Physical Laboratory and the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg.