The Max Planck-New York City Center for Non-Equilibrium Quantum Phenomena has embraced the challenge of understanding many-body quantum phenomena away from equilibrium.
Our synergistic work over the past five years has produced significant experimental and theoretical advances in the general area of non-equilibrium many-body quantum phenomena. We have demonstrated new non-equilibrium quantum phases in which structural, electronic, and magnetic symmetries are manipulated on-demand by coherent stimulation. This research has uncovered new opportunities for fundamental science and technological applications. The net outcome is that new electronic and magnetic phenomena, impossible to achieve at equilibrium, are becoming experimentally accessible.
Experimental research in non-equilibrium physics is propelled by ultra-intense optical fields attainable with modern femtosecond lasers. These methods now offer the tantalizing opportunities to prepare long-lived meta-stable states, inaccessible by thermal pathways. These states can be viewed as local minima in the free energy of the system. Without an external drive, the system might never reach these states, as the free energy is minimized globally. However, using specific drive protocols, the Center investigators succeeded to prepare long-lived meta-stable states, which is beyond the reach in equilibrium. Still, discovering generic paradigms to understand dynamics and phases far from equilibrium remains a grand challenge of contemporary physics.