Mikkel Heuck

Photonics researcher becomes Sapere Aude Research Leader

Friday 20 Nov 20
by Tobias Sydradal Lund

About Sapere Aude Research Leaders

  • Sapere Aude means ‘Dare to know’.

  • Sapere Aude: DFF Research Leader provides excellent, younger researchers, i.e. researchers who have performed research at the top of their field, with the opportunity to develop and strengthen their research ideas and start their own research groups. The grant is also meant to help promote mobility internationally and nationally between research environments and strengthen careers, including allowing the most talented researchers to set up a team of researchers and conduct research at a high international level.

  • Independent Research Fund Denmark has received 391 applications and distributed 35 grants corresponding to a success rate of 9%.

Read the full press release from DFF

Independent Research Fund Denmark has appointed Mikkel Heuck as a 2020 Sapere Aude Research Leader. This title is awarded to younger researchers with original ideas and strong leadership skills. The recognition comes with a grant of DKK 6,2 million.

When Mikkel Heuck returns to DTU Fotonik from the US on 1 February 2021, it will be with an exciting new objective and a considerable amount of funding. As one of only 36 researchers, he has received a Sapere Aude Research Leader Grant. Independent Research Fund Denmark (DFF) gives the grant to the most highly skilled young researchers doing top-class research in their field. The grant allows these research leaders to set up their own team to conduct research at a high international level.

The research leader's grant is the reason why Mikkel Heuck is now saying goodbye to the prestigious  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to return home to Denmark and DTU Fotonik, where he was both a PhD student and Postdoc.

“It is important for me to be able to contribute to research and education in Denmark within my field, and that will now be possible. At the same time, the grant gives me even greater freedom to define my research program and enhance my international profile,” says Mikkel Heuck, who is still currently a research scientist at MIT.

On 1 February, he will officially begin as senior researcher at DTU Fotonik. At the department, he will be leading work on the project "Nonlinear Photonic Devices for Quantum Networks".

“The primary goal of the project is to develop components that will make it possible to transmit quantum mechanical information using photons. These components must fulfill the same function as optical amplifiers do today, namely to counteract losses in fiber optic cables. The challenge is that ordinary amplifiers destroy the quantum mechanical information that the individual photons carry with them. That is why new components are needed,” says Mikkel Heuck and continues:

"It is important for me to be able to contribute to research and education in Denmark within my field, and that will now be possible. At the same time, the grant gives me even greater freedom to define my research program"
Mikkel Heuck, newly appointed Sapere Aude Research Leader

"The project specifically consists of designing, manufacturing and testing of integrated photonic circuits, which contain both a kind of harddrive in the form of atom-like systems and non-linear optical cavities. By controlling the cavities, we can manipulate the photons that are emitted from the harddrives so that they achieve the right properties to be sent out into the network.”

Towards efficient quantum networks

“In principle, quantum networks already exist, because you can send individual photons over the existing fibers, as long as they do not encounter an amplifier along the way. The problem is that the probability of the photon arriving decreases exponentially with the distance between sender and receiver. I expect that we will see the first demonstrations of "quantum amplifiers" within the next few years. The quantum networks will then gradually have a longer range and higher data rate as the technology develops further,” says Mikkel Heuck.

At the top of Mikkel Heuck's to-do list is a move across the Atlantic. Further down the list - at the visionary end - is the dream of optical quantum processors:

“The dream in the long run is to develop optical quantum processors that are both very fast and at the same time work at room temperature. It should in principle be possible, but it's probably many years off into the future.”

Read about the five other DTU researchers who have also become DFF Research Leaders

Contact Mikkel Heuck: mheuck@mit.edu


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