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   International Junior Research Groups

Interaction between Light and Matter

LMU Munich

International Junior Research Group
in the Natural Sciences

Head: Dr. Dirk-André Deckert

Contact: dirk-andre.deckert@elitenetzwerk.de

Duration: 5 years

Affiliated Program within the Elite Network of Bavaria:

Elite Graduate Program „Theoretical and Mathematical Physics“


•    Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Schweiz
•    Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
•    Universität Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
•    University of California, Davis, USA
•    University of Trieste, Italy
•    University of Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy

The central topic of this research group is the interaction between light and matter, more precisely electrodynamic fields and charged elementary particles. Apart from gravitation, this interaction governs the biggest part of our daily experiences. We owe to it everything we see and feel. It has long been the subject of study with traditional treaties as old as the writings of Aristotle. Yet in many aspects its foundational understanding still lies on the frontier of human knowledge, rendering its study at the same time traditional and novel. In its modern form, known as "quantum electrodynamics", the electrodynamic theory has led to many crucial predictions which have been verified with remarkable accuracy in particle collider experiments such as the CERN.

In these experiments elementary particles clash violently into each other, interact shortly, and scatter apart. The analysis of recorded scattering cross sections then gives insights into the fundamental structure of matter. Despite its success, however, the mathematical foundation of the theory of electrodynamics is plagued by ill-defined equations of motion which generate infinities that cause any straight-forward computation of measurands to fail. To extract predictions, physicists and mathematicians developed formal computation recipes known as "perturbative renormalization theory". Though a mathematical rigorous understanding of these methods is lacking, they seem to work well in regimes where, e.g., colliding particles do not have much time to interact before they scatter apart. In other regimes where, e.g., charged particles are subject to ultra-strong laser fields for longer times, theory as well as experiment indicate that such conventional methods will fail in producing satisfactory predictions.

In the next two decades, however, a new generation of experiments will explore nature far beyond such mere scattering situations. This is due to recent advances in laser technology, a technology that will allow to probe electrodynamic phenomena in much more controlled environments and may shrink experimental setups like the CERN with a 26 kilometers circumference to the size of laboratory tables. For planning, prediction, and analysis of such experiments, new mathematically rigorous so-called “non-perturbative” methods have to be developed. This, beside foundational questions of electrodynamics, is our primary objective. 

The focus of this Junior Research Group lies on: 1) The controlled creation of a cascade of matter-antimatter (electron-positron) pairs out of the vacuum in view of planned experiments within the European project “Extreme Light Infrastructure”. 2) The accurate prediction of radiation-induced friction of accelerated charges which is a crucial ingredient for the near-future wake field accelerator technology. Beyond the value of the fundamental understanding of nature, this field of research has a far outreach. It has provided the foundations and repeatedly revolutionized the development of high-technology in clinical diagnostics, nuclear pharmacology, and oncology. The group consists of its leader and two doctoral students, and the project will commence in September 2014.

Dr. Dirk-André Deckert

Further information

Funded by:
  • Bavarian State Ministry of Education, Science and the Arts
  • Elite Network of Bavaria:
  • since September 1, 2014