Successful application: Helmholtz Young Investigator Group for Peter Micke


Peter Micke will be Helmholtz Young Investigator Group Leader at the Helmholtz Institute Jena, a branch of the GSI Helmholtz Center in Darmstadt. He will receive 1.5 million euros over the next five years to set up his experiment at the GSI accelerator facility. He intends to use novel quantum technology at the HITRAP facility at GSI for high-precision measurements of heavy highly charged ions. The combination of a heavy ion accelerator and those kinds of precision experiments is unique.

Internationally outstanding postdocs are given the opportunity to establish their own research group at Helmholtz. An independent, multidisciplinary and international panel of reviewers has selected ten young research groups for funding this year. One of them will be headed by Peter Micke at the Helmholtz Institute Jena in partnership with Friedrich Schiller University Jena. With his group, he will build a new laser laboratory and connect it to the HITRAP facility at GSI. There, he will operate a sophisticated ion trap in which the ambient conditions are close to those of interstellar space. With the help of the GSI accelerators, heavy highly charged ions will be produced, then decelerated with HITRAP and finally trapped in an ion trap. Modern laser systems will then cool the ions close to absolute zero, allowing Peter Micke's group to precisely measure their hyperfine structure using so-called quantum logic spectroscopy. The special feature: this normally tiny energy splitting due to the alignment of the nuclear spin in the magnetic field of the electrons bound to the atomic nucleus is in the optical range for heavy highly charged ions. It can thus be measured with high precision using lasers. Moreover, heavy highly charged ions have in their atomic shell the strongest electromagnetic fields accessible in the laboratory. This provides an extraordinary opportunity to test fundamental laws of nature such as quantum electrodynamics under such extreme conditions, to better understand nuclear physics models, and even to search for previously unknown physics. 

"I congratulate Peter Micke and am delighted that his proposal was selected," says Prof. Paolo Giubellino, Scientific Managing Director of GSI/FAIR. "A Helmholtz Young Investigator Group leadership not only offers ideal opportunities for a scientific career, but also paves the way for new research approaches, such as quantum logic spectroscopy. This confirms that research opportunities at GSI/FAIR are outstanding and attract talented scientists."

Peter Micke earned his doctorate at Leibniz Universität Hannover with an experiment he set up at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Braunschweig in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg. In this experiment, he and his colleagues were able to demonstrate quantum logic spectroscopy on highly charged ions for the first time. Peter Micke then spent another year as a postdoc at this experiment. He then moved to CERN as a Senior Research Fellow, working for the international BASE collaboration, which focuses on the study of matter-antimatter asymmetry through measurements of fundamental properties of the proton and antiproton. Since spring 2022, he has been working in Mainz, where the BASE collaboration operates one of its ion traps. Peter Micke will start the new Helmholtz Young Investigator Group within the next 11 months. (LW)