US award could put Skibbereen scientist in line for Nobel Prize

March 21st, 2023 10:30 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Professor Seamus Davis of UCC received his award at a ceremony in Las Vegas. (Photo: Clare Keogh) The Prize recognises 25 years of work and in recognition of his development of quantum microscopes that allow direct atomic scale imaging of quantum matter. The Buckley Prize has been won by 18 previous winners of the Nobel Prize for Physics. Picture: Clare Keogh

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SKIBBEREEN’S famous professor of quantum physics, Seamus Davis, has been presented with an international prize that’s recognised in academic circles as a precursor to the Nobel Prize 

The UCC professor’s latest accolade is the Buckley Prize, which has been won by 18 Nobel Prize winners over the last 70 years.

To give the award its official title, Prof Davis was presented with the American Physical Society’s Oliver E Buckley Prize in Condensed Matter Physics.

The professor heads up a team that is pioneering a research programme at UCC and Oxford University – as part of a joint appointment supported by Science Foundation Ireland.

Seamus was presented with the award in recognition of his ground-breaking work on quantum telescope.

The accolade recognises his 25 years of work and his development of quantum microscopes that allow direct atomic scale imaging of quantum matter existing within advanced materials.

What that means is that Seamus and his team have developed a spectroscopic imaging-scanning tunnelling microscope at UCC, which is one of just six such machines in the world.

Seamus told The Southern Star that a global scientific race in the field of quantum physics is taking place, with advances expected to revolutionise the speed and power of computing.

‘Existing technology is going to be replaced by quantum information technology during the 21st century and there’s good reason to do that,’ he said.

‘Quantum computers, at least on paper, should be thousands or millions of times more powerful than silicon-based semiconductor computers,’ he explained. Hundreds of companies are racing to gain leadership in the field of building and selling commercial quantum computers.

The work being done at UCC is in the basement of the Kane Building at UCC, the science building.

‘This lab used to be a civil engineering lab,’ said Seamus, ‘but UCC very generously rebuilt it for us into an ultralow vibration, high precision lab for studying quantum materials. 

‘That took a couple of years, during Covid, but now it’s all built, our instruments are built, and we’re ready to go.’

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