Jérôme Faist comes to the MPSD with Humboldt Research Award

Jérôme Faist, Professor at the Institute for Quantum Electronics at ETH Zürich, is to receive a Humboldt Research Award to pursue his work at the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg at CFEL.

Jérôme Faist © Privat

His research centers on the fluctuating fields found in a vacuum and how these could be controlled. Quantum mechanics predicts that even in the absence of any irradiation with light, vacuum is nevertheless permeated with random, fluctuating fields. “These random fluctuations have deep implications for the properties of atoms - but the effects are usually small,” explains Faist. “My research is aimed at engineering these fluctuations and amplifying them using cavities such as to create effects that are measurable on macroscopic samples of solid-state materials. The far-out goal would be to control solid-state phases using vacuum fluctuations in cavities.” 


He hopes that the collaboration with Angel Rubio’s Theory Department and the Condensed Matter Department led by Andrea Cavalleri will yield new insights into the control of matter using vacuum fluctuations.


“My decision to choose the MPSD as a host institution is the combination of scientific excellence and working conditions that are exceptional in this place, and also the perfect match and complementarity of the know-how of the local groups with my present scientific interests.” Faist feels it is a privilege to be chosen for the Humboldt Research Award: “Receiving such a prestigious prize is a great honor and a highlight of my career. It is also a very nice way to have more collaborations and connections to Germany.” 


Theory Director Ángel Rubio is delighted about Jérôme Faist’s research stay: “We are very pleased that Prof. Faist receives the Humboldt award. It will foster the collaboration with his group at ETH on the control of condensates of strongly interacting light-matter hybrids (polaritons) and generate new ideas on how quantum materials phenomena can be controlled by structuring the quantum vacuum fluctuations. We look forward to having him with us!”


The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has chosen Jérôme Faist for the Award in recognition of his outstanding research and teaching achievements to date. Born in Geneva, Faist obtained his Bachelor and PhD in Physics from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne. In 1997 he gained a professorship in physics at the University of Neuchâtel. Since 2007, he has been a professor at the Institute for Quantum Electronics at ETH Zürich.


Faist’s central role in the development of QCLs and optical frequency combs, starting with the invention and first demonstration of the quantum cascade (QC) laser in 1994, was recognised by a number of awards, most recently the 2018 IEEE medal for the environment (2018) and by the  2019 Julius Springer award for applied physics as well as his election to the US National Academy of Engineering (2022).