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Creating Quantum Fields that Define Reality

Dr. Kunal Das, Department of Physical Sciences

Since 2010, theoretical physicist Dr. Kunal K. Das has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct research at the interface of nanotechnology and ultracold atoms.  Classical physics that we are used to in everyday life breakdown in these regimes of extremely small and extremely cold, and strange quantum effects dominate - where material particles behave like waves, objects can be in multiple places simultaneously and can even go right through barriers.  Such exotic behavior provides opportunities for creating new technology like quantum computers and teleportation, and has enabled the relentless miniaturization of our devices.  On the other hand, these systems are also allowing us for the first time to create in the lab, the natural phenomena that define the foundations of our universe.  

Kunal DasWith a view to both applications and fundamental physics, Dr. Das and his students are currently studying mechanisms that create gauge fields and topological features (generalization of geometry) artificially in the lab and ways to utilize them.  Gauge fields permeate the universe, and disturbances in these fields are the origin of all the known forces in nature, except gravity which is exceptionally still described by the geometry of space-time.  However, until recently, we could only study the physics of gauges fields as they occur in nature and we could not control or manipulate them to truly distill out the mysteries of their origin.  But with developments in recent years, scientists are finally capable of creating and simulating them in the lab. However, even in these simulations, the artificial fields remain locked within the internal states of atoms. Dr. Das is currently working on taking this one step farther, where the gauge structures can be created in actual physical space, manifest in the dynamics of cold atoms and electrons.

This research falls within Dr. Das's continuing general interests in quantum transport dynamics, a subject on which he has been publishing peer-reviewed papers steadily during his years at KU.  Dr. Das continues to actively involve numerous students in his research, using his grants to provide them summer employment - just this summer, a total of six KU undergraduates worked on various projects paid for and supported by his various grants.  Dr. Das is proud of the impact such research experience has had on his students: some have been coauthors in the top peer-reviewed international journals in physics, many have presented at international conferences, and several of the students trained by him have gone on to do Ph.D. in physics at the best universities in the world, including multiple Ivy League schools.

Notably, Dr. Das also published a popular physics book titled "The Quantum Rules", recently released in paperback and audiobook formats and available in bookstores and online.


October, 2015