News


Laser Beyond the Standard Quantum Limit

  • By Samantha Whelpley
  • 5 February 2021

Research led by David Pekker was recently featured in an article on Gizmodo titled “Physicists are Reinventing the Laser”. The work was from Pekker’s paper titled “A New Quantum Limit on Laser Linewidth,” co-authored with Michael Hatridge, Chenxu Liu, Maria Mucci, Xi Cao, and Gurudev Dutt.

Their research finds that the Schawlow-Townes limit, an equation used to find the coherence time limit for lasers, is no longer an accurate estimate and that it can be possible to build more coherent lasers. Pekker and his coworkers found that by placing a valve on a laser to control the flow of protons, the laser’s coherence time can be extended beyond the Schawlow-Townes limit.


Yanan Dai Wins 2020 OCPA Outstanding Dissertation Award

  • By Jennifer Zheng
  • 3 February 2021

Congratulations to a recent graduate from Hrvoje Petek's group, Dr. Yanan Dai, for winning the 2020 International Organization of Chinese Physicists and Astronomers (OCPA) Outstanding Dissertation Award! In addition to this award, his dissertation, “Imaging Light with Photoelectrons on the Nano-Femto Scale,” was also recognized and reprinted in Springer-Nature.

Dr. Dai’s dissertation includes his work on ultrafast microscopy techniques and recent applications. These projects included his development of an ultrafast photoemission microscope with sub-10 femtosecond and nanometer spatiotemporal resolution, which was subsequently utilized to probe for and ultimately discover topological quasiparticles. Using ultrafast optics, Dr. Dai was able to probe and observe topological meron and skyrmion-like plasmonic quasiparticles as well as their dynamics during a phase transition. 

Using these observations and technological developments, he offers an analytical theory of how these newly observed quasiparticles and the microscopy techniques used to address them could have further research applications. 

A reprint of his dissertation can be found in Sprinter-Nature.


Experiment takes “snapshots” of light, stops light, and uses light to change properties of matter

  • By Ke Xu
  • 21 December 2020

Light travels at a speed of about 300,000,000 meters per second as light particles, photons, or equivalently as electromagnetic field waves. Experiments led by Hrvoje Petek examined ideas surrounding the origins of light, taking snapshots of light, stopping light and using it to change properties of matter.

Petek worked with student Yannan Dai and collaborators Prof. Chen-Bin (Robin) Huang of the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, and Atsushi Kubo of the Tsukuba University of Japan on the experiments. Their findings were reported in the paper, “Plasmonic topological quasiparticle on the nanometre and femtosecond scales,” which was published in the Dec. 24 issue of Nature magazine.


Lillian Chong and Collaborators Receive Gordon Bell Special Prize for COVID-19 Research

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 1 December 2020

Prof. Lillian Chong and graduate student, Anthony Bogetti, were part of a multi-institution team effort that won the Association for Computing Machinery’s Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize of Supercomputing. A crowning achievement of this effort is the generation of atomically detailed views of how the spike protein of the coronavirus opens up before latching onto cells during infection.


Pitt Researchers to Join NSF Materials Center Studying Two-Dimensional Metals

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 30 November 2020

The Nanoionics and Electronics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has received $557,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its work investigating a new type of two-dimensional material. The project, “Two-dimensional Polar Metals and Heterostructures,” is led by Associate Professor, Susan Fullerton, and Research Assistant Professor Ke Xu, both in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.


Duquesne University Announces New Professional Masters Degree in Applied Physics

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 27 November 2020

Duquesne University is happy to announce the opening of a new Professional Masters degree in Applied Physics, beginning Fall 2021. The new program combines hands-on experience with optics, instrumentation, and materials with business skills to enable graduates to enter industry or to start their own tech company. Please see their website for more information and how to apply.


Peyman Givi Receives NSF Award to Study Complex Turbulent Flows

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 18 November 2020

​​​​​​​Mechanical engineering professors Hessam Babaee and Peyman Givi recently received an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a three-year project titled “Real-Time and Adaptive Chemical Kinetic Model Reduction Coupled with Turbulence.” 

The chemistry of combustion involves understanding how a large number of species behave and evolve in a given operating condition.  The tractability of this technically important problem becomes increasingly difficult when the operation involves turbulent mixing. 


Quantum2020 Poster Session Winners

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 13 November 2020

The Quantum2020 Spooky Action at a Distance poster session was held remotely over multiple Zoom sessions on October 29th, 2020. We had a team of 20 judges coming from various departments at Pitt, CMU, and Duquesne comprising both faculty members, postdocs and previous poster award winners, who evaluated the poster presentations of 44 participants hailing from physics, engineering, chemistry, and other disciplines. 

The full video playlist is linked here, and the descriptions of each video contain quicklinks to the beginning of each presentation. Thank you to everyone who participated!

The six presenters that received the highest overall scores are: 


Quantum2020 on Thursday, Oct. 29th

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 27 October 2020

We invite the PQI community to attend Quantum2020 “Spooky Action at a Distance - a Remote Poster Session”  that takes place October 29th, 2020 from 3-5:15 PM over 2 sessions (Session A 3PM-4PM, Session B 4:15PM-5:15PM). View the poster gallery and schedule at qr.pqi.org/quantum2020galllery!

This is an interdisciplinary event with a focus on quantum science and engineering! We are encouraging the participants to make their presentation accessible to a broad audience to foster potential collaborations and lessen communication barriers that may exist between different fields.


Facebook and Carnegie Mellon Launch the Open Catalyst Project

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 26 October 2020

Facebook AI and Professor Zach Ulissi in the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Department of Chemical Engineering are announcing the Open Catalyst Project, a collaboration intended to use AI to accelerate quantum mechanical simulations by 1,000x in order to discover new electrocatalysts needed for more efficient and scalable ways to store and use renewable energy. The overview paper and dataset paper for this work can be found on arXiv.org.

Wind and solar energy are vital parts of the modern energy grid, especially if we hope to combat climate change. Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Both provide intermittent power, with California, for instance, seeing peak solar generation in the afternoon rather than in the evening, when demand spikes. Increasing our reliance on renewable energy requires storing power for days, weeks, or even months so that it’s available when needed.

Pages