The three pillars of modern theoretical physics, General Relativity (GR) and Quantum Physics (QP),and Thermodynamics (T) when combined together give rise to some of the most fascinating, and yet not fully explored, research fields in physics. What is even more appealing is that, current (or near-future) quantum technologies offer the possibility to peek into the boundaries between QP and the other two pillars.
GR and QP are characterized by different mathematical and conceptual structures. The former is a classical theory describing the interplay between matter and spacetime as well summarized by Wheeler: “Spacetime tells matter how to move; matter tells spacetime how to curve”; the latter is instead an intrinsically probabilistic theory that describes the microscopic world and that “I think I can safely say that nobody understands” (cit. R. Feynman). These two theories are far apart and trying to bring them together has kept physicists busy for a long time.
One of the main obstacles to a theory of Quantum Gravity (QG) is the lack of empirical data, observational evidence, or even just a small clue on the right direction to take. In the past 20 years, though, the field of Quantum Gravity Phenomenology has blossomed. Its main aim is to connect quantum gravity ideas with experiments and observations in the hope to shed some light on the fundamental structure of spacetime, or at least give theoreticians some pointers.
A particularly promising avenue is the use of table-top experiments that employ new quantum technologies and an exquisite level of control, together with Quantum Information tools and techniques. As a bonus, this is promising not only for research in QG but also for the exploration of the foundation of Quantum Mechanics.
The same table-top experimental architectures can also be relevant when looking at the out-of-equilibrium thermodynamics of quantum systems. Thermodynamics is indeed “the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced … will never be overthrown” (cit. Einstein).
The field of quantum thermodynamics, that tries to extend classical thermodynamics concepts into the quantum domain, has attracted the attention of a large part of the theoretical and experimental physics communities in recent years. This field offers the opportunity to both investigate fundamental questions, like the emergence of the arrow of time or the role of information at the most fundamental levels, and at the same time seeks to exploit the advantages offered by quantum physics in the quest for thermal machines outperforming classical ones.
My line of research is positioned at the interface between quantum technologies and fundamental physics. My current research interest is to investigate the interplay between quantum physics, gravity, and thermodynamics. Which effects can we expect when both QP and GR have to be considered? Can we probe the small (quantum?) scale structure of spacetime by exploiting quantum technologies? What is the role of the measurement process and information in the thermodynamics of quantum systems? These and many others are the questions that I would like to try to answer.