The University of Southampton

Southampton professor awarded international honour for 'liquid light' discovery

Published: 18 May 2020
Professor Alexey Kavokin is part of Southampton’s Quantum, Light and Matter research group

Professor Alexey Kavokin has been honoured with the International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors (ISCS) Quantum Devices Award for a scientific discovery that led to a novel form of semiconductor lasers.

The theoretical physicist, who is based at the University of Southampton and Westlake University, China, predicted the room temperature Bose-Einstein condensation of exciton-polaritons, also known as 'liquid light'.

The finding triggered the development of energy efficient polariton lasers capable of ultra-low threshold lasing.

ISCS award winners have been announced today as part of international Compound Semiconductor Week (CSW). This year’s gathering has been cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic so Alexey will receive his prize in a ceremony at CSW 2021 in Sweden.

The ISCS Quantum Devices Award was established in 2000 by Fujitsu Quantum Devices and recognises advances in compound semiconductor devices and quantum nanostructure devices, which have made a major scientific or technological impact in the past 20 years.

"It is a great honour to be recognised as making a pioneering contribution in my field," Alexey says. "This award highlights results that I consider as the most important in my research career so far and I hope that the ongoing studies will continue to realise the full potential of polariton lasers."

Exciton-polaritons, or 'liquid light', are a fluid made of hybrid quasiparticles that combine properties of light and matter. Liquid light is much slower than conventional light in vacuum and can form droplets and vortices that can be controlled by electric and magnetic fields.

Alexey's group was the first to predict the Bose-Einstein condensation of liquid light at the room temperature around 20 years ago. He coordinated a European research network aimed at the experimental verification of this prediction and in 2007, together with current and former Southampton professors Pavlos Lagoudakis and Jeremy Baumberg, reported the first observation of this phenomenon at 300K, or 26oC.

"I hope to realise two more research proposals by our group: the realisation of light-induced superconductivity in polariton lasers with embedded conducting layers and the creation of quantum networks based on polariton qubits (quantum bits of information)," Alexey says. "Over 10 research labs all over the world are involved in these studies."

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