Croucher Innovation Award: Shizhong Zhang

9 October 2015

Physicist, Dr Shizhong Zhang, has been jointly awarded the Croucher Foundation Innovation Award of 2015 along with Dr Vic Law, a physicist from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

While Law is working primarily on condensed matter physics, specifically typological states in condensed matter systems, Zhang is working on cold atoms. However, sections of their research overlap and the two scientists will be working together on realising some of the more recently developed typological states, typological insulators and superconductors in cold atoms, as these models are more difficult to be realised in condensed matter systems.

“This Croucher award is a great confidence boost to young scientists. It is great to know people recognise that your research is useful and to have the opportunity and financial support to interact and collaborate with other scientists from around the world.”

Zhang conducts research in atomic gases and superconductivity, exploring the reactionary effects of these gases when subject to spin orbit interactions as well as studying the transport mechanism in such systems.

The study of ultracold quantum gases looks into systems of atoms which are kept in the gas phase and at very low temperatures and densities. The important quantomechanic effect that arises at low temperatures has made this fascinating topic the subject of many recent experiments taking place in different interdisciplinary areas like quantum physics, condensed matter physics and quantum optics. These exercises aim to devise a fundamental understanding of quantum many-body systems in order to better control this system in the lab.

Zhang’s research into how quantum transport takes place in unitary fermi gases explores particle movement in strongly interacting systems, such as those of ultracold quantum gases. Mechanisms of transport systems include electric transport, which occurs during electric conductivity and is related to the resistivity of the wire in, and also, diffusion, which describes particles travelling from one region to another based on the difference in levels of density. By learning about the transport mechanism in this quantum gas system, the knowledge can then be used to better understand other types of strongly interacting systems such as high temperature superconductors.

According to Zhang, one of the biggest challenges in this field of study is getting the temperature to the necessary low levels as demanded by the research. There is also a lot more that needs to be studied and understood about strongly interactive systems and high temperature superconductors in order to form a strong theoretical foundation of these matters and carry out further experiments. Any developments achieved in spin optic interactions, another topic of Zhang’s research, can help form better predictions in quantum physics and eventually lead to creating entirely new quantum states. Information gained by the research holds a great amount of intellectual value in this particular area of physics.

Zhang is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Hong Kong. He was jointly awarded the 2015 Croucher Foundation Innovation Award with HKUST’s Dr Law Kam Tuen, Vic. Zhang graduated from Tsinghua University (2003) and received his PhD degree in physics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2009).

To view Dr Shizhong Zhang’s personal Croucher profile, please click here.

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