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David Bates Prize of the Institute of Physics awarded to quantum scientist James Millen

Dr James Millen of the research group “Molecular Quantum Optics & Quantum Nanophysics” was presented with the David Bates Prize of the Institute of Physics (IOP) in Glasgow. He was awarded the prize for his pioneering experimental and theoretical contributions to the field of quantum optomechanics.

© Arne Wickenbrock

Over the past five years Dr. James Millen has established a reputation as one of Europe’s foremost young researchers in the rapidly growing field of quantum nanoscale optomechanics. He has made seminal contributions to the study of levitated optomechanical systems, opening up new directions in quantum science research. His major contribution over the past five years has been to pioneer the optical cooling and manipulation of levitated objects – freed from a substrate and held in place by electrostatic or optical fields.

Dr. Millen is also commended for his leadership in public engagement in quantum science, notably founding The Quantum Workshop project, presenting demos and science discussion in venues from pubs to the London Science Museum, providing outreach training for scientists and giving science advice to the producers of two BBC documentaries.

The David Bates Prize of the Institute of Physics (IOP)

The prize is given biennially to an early-career researcher who has published outstanding research within the previous five years relevant to the five IOP groups that, together with the Computational Physics Group, organise QuAMP: the Quantum Optics, Quantum Information and Quantum Control Group; Atomic and Molecular Interactions Group; Molecular Physics Group; Quantum Electronics and Photonics Group; and Plasma Physics Group.

In his Bates Prize talk, Dr. Millen spoke on optical control and cooling of levitated nanoparticles. The field of quantum nanoscale optomechanics emerged early this century. The aim is to cool and manipulate nano- and micro- scale mechanical systems with light. The ultimate goal is to observe the quantum behaviour of mesoscopic objects made of billions of individual atoms. Until recently, these mechanical systems had to be attached to a much larger substrate, limiting the range of systems that could be cooled and leading to unwanted losses through strain and thermal contact.

Dr James Millen                           

Following a highly successful PhD in atomic physics, he began working on optomechanics at University College London (UCL) in 2011. At UCL he demonstrated the first cavity cooling of electrostatically trapped nanobeads, followed by record cavity cooling of a levitated nanoparticle. Demonstrating his versatility, he was also lead author on a pivotal study on the use of statistical methods to carry out thermometry in these out-of-equilibrium systems. Remarkably, he was able to show that by observing the Brownian motion of the trapped sphere, information can be gleaned not only on its centre-of-mass dynamics, but also on its surface temperature and that of the surrounding background gas. This work was featured on the cover of Nature Nanotechnology.

More recently he obtained a prestigious EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship in the group of Professor Markus Arndt at the University of Vienna, where he continued his ground breaking research in optomechanics, performing the world’s first studies of the optical control of levitated nanorods. In these papers, Millen appears as the last author, a position traditionally reserved for the group leader, demonstrating that this pioneering project was indeed driven by him, and the international esteem that he has acquired.

IOP Bates Prize Announcement: www.iop.org/activity/groups/subject/qqq/bates_prize/page_65535.html

“Molecular Quantum Optics & Quantum Nanophysics” research group: quantumnano.at

Dr. James Millen - Research: www.drjmillen.wordpress.com

Dr. James Millen - Outreach: www.thequantumworkshop.com

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