In his project, physicist Dr. Julian Schmitt aims to develop a strategy with which new and stable quantum states can be generated and observed in open systems. His interest is focused on states of matter, which inherit a topological character from their coupling to the environment. Topology, the mathematical study of shapes and their geometric properties, is an important fundamental universal concept for our current understanding of states of matter, both on small and large scales - from atomic systems to astrophysics. Moreover, topological materials exhibit a high degree of robustness, which makes them an interesting resource from a technological point of view. Contrary to what had been assumed so far, openness is not necessarily a limitation for such topological systems, but it may even become a tool to generate new topological states, as suggested by Schmitt.

In his TopoGrand project, Schmitt plans to develop a novel photonic system that traps Bose-Einstein condensates of light particles in arrays of tiny optical microresonators. The goal is to generate and observe novel topological states of light. In particular, doing this at room temperature is groundbreaking. Julian Schmitt's approach and the experiments may become relevant for diverse applications, such as information processing on photonic chips. From a fundamental physics perspective, the TopoGrand project will explore the emerging links between photonics, condensed matter systems and quantum computing, and emulate finite-temperature topological systems, which are at the forefront of research in quantum physics. The ERC Starting Grant for the project is endowed with around 1.5 million euros.

After studying physics and earning his doctorate at the University of Bonn, Julian Schmitt was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge, and has been a Junior Principal Investigator at the University of Bonn for more than two years. His area of expertise is experimental research with quantum systems of light and matter. In his research work, he has contributed to important achievements in the physics of low-dimensional quantum gases using experiments with photonic and ultracold atomic systems where quantum effects can be controlled and studied under extreme conditions and with great flexibility. In 2020, he received an Independence Grant from the ML4Q Cluster of Excellence.