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Two dimensional superfluids and quantum spin liquids

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J Saunders
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Atomically layered helium films cooled to ultralow temperatures provide a beautiful experimental model system to improve fundamental understanding of two dimensional condensed matter. For example we have recently observed a new state of quantum matter with intertwined superfluid and density wave order in a 4He monolayer.

These films grow as atomic layers on the atomically flat surface of graphite. The density of these layers can be varied essentially continuously to tune between different quantum mechanical ground states. This allows us to study a wide variety of questions in strongly correlated quantum matter systems: quantum criticality, frustrated magnetism, superfluidity, and the two dimensional “supersolidity” referred to above. This research links to the wider study of quantum condensed matter, to the study of cold atoms, and beyond.

This project will focus two dimensional superfluidity in 3He films and on the investigation of the putative quantum spin liquid realised in a solid 3He layer. [The quantum spin liquid and the monolayer fermionic superfluidity are long sought after states of matter].

It will be undertaken on a nuclear demagnetization cryostat (ND1) in the London Low Temperature Laboratory at Royal Holloway. The experiments exploit our world-leading expertise in ultralow temperature physics, and in particular the use of superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) as highly sensitive detectors of nuclear magnetic resonance signals. We will also develop graphene nanomechanical resonators for the study of adsorbed helium.

The project is expected to lead to fundamental insights into some of the most central issues in the physics of strongly correlated matter, and impact on the understanding of more complex materials of potential technological relevance. We have a track record of driving innovation of instrumentation and measurement techniques at an important scientific frontier; the low temperature frontier.

This PhD project will equip you with a broad range of experimental skills (ultralow temperature physics is recognised internationally for the quality of training it provides) giving you significant flexibility in your future career trajectory. You will also interact with theorists and the international community researching quantum liquids and strongly correlated quantum systems. The London Low Temperature Laboratory is member of the European Microkelvin Platform , which integrates infrastructure in ultralow temperature physics across Europe. As a PhD student at Royal Holloway University of London you will also be a member of the regional SEPnet graduate network , which offers a wide program of training opportunities.

Funding is available for Home/EU students for this project.

The Royal Holloway, Department of Physics Open Day is on Wednesday 22nd November at 1pm. Please come along to meet our academics and students and find out about what is on offer. For more information visit our website:

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