Marcel Duda invents a novel method to produce fermionic polar molecules

His dissertation helped solve a problem that had haunted the field of ultracold molecules for a decade

January 09, 2023

Congratulations to Marcel Duda on finishing his PhD! His doctoral thesis focused on the production of fermionic polar molecules from potassium and sodium atoms. Contrary to previous assumptions, he was able to show that the molecule production procedure is both possible and highly efficient.

In his doctoral research project, Marcel Duda worked on producing a degenerate sample of fermionic polar molecules for quantum simulation experiments. The process is seemingly straightforward: you first cool the atoms – in this case, sodium and potassium – to ultracold temperatures before assembling them into molecules. However, since sodium and potassium behave quite differently at low temperatures due to their quantum statistics, previous experiments seemed to indicate that the molecule production procedure might be difficult or even impossible. Instead, Marcel Duda could show that the molecule production is not only possible, but also highly efficient when the two atomic species are matched in density. Using lasers of two different wavelengths, he was able to adjust the densities of the two atomic species individually. Each sodium atom can then partner up with a potassium atom to form a molecule. With this new process, Marcel Duda invented a novel method to solve a problem that had haunted the field of ultracold molecules for more or less a decade. 

About his time at MPQ, where he completed both his Master’s and doctoral degree, Marcel Duda speaks highly: “I started in an experiment that was not so easy to get under control but with our proactive and somewhat naive attitude we managed to improve the situation – great teamwork led to great achievements!” He fondly remembers going to the beer garden when the air conditioning was malfunctioning one summer, playing in a band called ‘Quantum Pogodynamics’, and one historic 23-hour measurement shift during which a colleague started teaching him tai chi to keep him awake.

What’s next?

After completing his PhD promotion, Marcel Duda first took some time off to spend more time with his daughter. Following that, he recently started working as an optical engineer in the space industry.

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