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Interview with Professor Hamid Berriche

Prof. Hamid Berriche

Prof. Hamid Berriche

Department Chair and Professor - Physics, Mathematics & Natural Sciences Department, AURAK

Prof. Berriche has a PhD in Quantum Physics from Paul Sabatier University, France, was a research fellow at the Emerson Centre for Scientific Computing at Emory University, Atlanta, USA, and has received the President’s Outstanding Research Award at AURAK twice (2016, 2018).

He talked to the AURAK Research Newsletter about his work.

Can you tell us about your areas of research focus?

I work on research subjects dealing with atomic, molecular and quantum physics. The most important topics are: the formation prediction of ultra-cold alkali and alkaline earth ionic and neutral diatomic molecules, and alkaline-rare gas van der Waals excimers used in high-power laser development.

However, I will speak only about the first topic, which is the studying, modelling and simulation of the structural, spectroscopic and dynamical properties of ultra-cold molecules.

The new development of cold and ultra-cold atomic trapping techniques has increased the interest in experimental and theoretical investigation into alkali cold molecular systems. Such important theoretical and experimental efforts are motivated by the possible applications, such as the manipulation and controlling of ultra-cold chemical reactions, ultra-cold molecular collision dynamics, quantum computing and experimental preparation of few-body quantum effects. The aim in the latter is to prepare molecules in definite quantum states with respect to the center of mass, electronic, rotational and vibrational motions.

In simple words, cooling molecules close to zero Kelvin permits their study in more detail than ever done before. At room temperature, the biggest problem with measuring molecules is that they move, rotate, and vibrate a lot, which makes them very disorderly. Cooling molecules will remove the disorder and will, extraordinarily, lead to a diverse range of new physics and chemistry understanding and applications, and offer exciting possibilities for new science.

My contribution in this field, as a theorist, is modelling and theoretically investigating the best molecular candidates for experimental cooling and formation via different ways. The aim is to determine with a high accuracy their structure, electrical and dynamical properties. Then, these important data are exploited for simulation and prediction of their formation through radiavative and photoassociation processes.

How does your research relate to research being conducted elsewhere in the world?

Trapping and controlling molecules can open the way to creating new types of strongly correlated condensed matter systems and to carrying out quantum simulations of condensed matter systems. New kinds of quantum phases in polar molecules confined in pancake traps have been predicted recently. In addition, it was confirmed that ultra-cold polar molecules are potential tools for quantum information applications. The vibrational and rotational states of these molecules, as well as the electronic, fine and hyperfine states that they possess in common with atoms, provide attractive possibilities for storing information and the conditional processing of quantum information  – the heart of quantum computing.

This field of research is very active and many groups in the world are studying cold and ultra-cold molecules:

  • JILA: Joint Institute of University of Colorado Boulder and NIST, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
  • Joint Quantum Institute, University of Maryland and National Institute of Standards and Technology, College Park, Maryland, USA.
  • Ultracold Molecular Chemistry and Physics Lab, Harvard University, Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms.
  • Department of Molecular Physics, Fritz-Haber- Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany.
  • Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Bavaria, Germany.
  • The Centre for Cold Matter, Imperial College London, UK.
  • Spectroscopy of Cold Molecules group, Radbound University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
  • Laboratoire Aimé Cotton (LAC), University Paris Sud 11, Orsay, France.
  • Department of Chemistry, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
  • Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw, Poland.

Can you tell us how your research agenda has developed over time?

I am interested in microscopic modelling to describe the electronic structure, interactions, and collisional physics of ion-atom systems at low and ultralow temperatures, including radiative and non-radiative charge transfer processes. Recently, I have been interested in studying ion-atom pairs such as Alkali-Alkali and Alkali-Alkaline earth ionic molecules.

In our work, we present ion-atom interactions and collisions at cold and ultra-cold temperatures. More  precisely, we discuss the electronic structure and quantum chemistry approach to interaction energy calculations, and we perform coupled channel scattering calculations. We characterize ultra-cold ion- atom scattering, which includes reactive charge transfer processes.

Since joining AURAK, I have published 35 papers in High Impact factor Thomson ISI journals in my field (Q1 and Q2). The most recent papers I have published are the following:

  • Electronic structure and prospects for the formation of calcium-alkali-metal-atom molecular ions Wissem Zrafi, Hela Ladjimi, Halima Said, Michal Tomza, Hamid Berriche New Journal of Physics in press
  • Ab-initio study of the Ground and Low-Lying Excited States including the Spin-Orbit effect of RbBa molecule and Laser Cooling Feasibility.Hela Ladjimi, Wissem Zrafi, Abdul-Rahman Allouche, Hamid Berriche Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer in press
  • Spectroscopic, structural and lifetime calculations of the ground and low-lying excited states of the BeNa+, BeK+, and BeRb+ molecular ions. Hela Ladjimi, Mohamed Farjallah, Hamid Berriche Physica Scripta 95 (2020) 055404:
  • Theoretical Study of the LiNa Molecule beyond the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation: adiabatic and diabatic potential energy curves, dipole moments and vibrational levels Mabrouk, W. Zrafi and H. Berriche Molecular Physics, 118 (2020) e1605098:
  • Non-relativistic and relativistic investigation of the low lying electronic states of Sr2+Xe, Sr+Xe and SrXe systemsWissem Zrafi, Mohamed Bejaoui, Jamila Dhiflaoui, Mohamed Farjallah and Hamid Berriche Eur. Journal of Physics D, 73 (2019) 60.
  • Theoretical Study of Cationic Alkali Dimers Interacting with He: Li2+ -He and Na2+–He van der Waals Complexes. Nissrin Al Harzali. Hamid Berriche. Pablo Villareal, Rita Prosmiti The Journal of Physical Chemistry A 123(2019) 7814-7821.

Are you involved in any externally funded project?

I am involved as Co-Investigator in one external project with a colleague, Dr. Neyla El-Kork from Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, UAE. 2019-2021: CIRA (Khalifa University of Science & Technology – Competitive Internal Research Award.

Title: Investigating ultra-cold diatomic molecules of astrophysical and quantum computational applications Budget: AED 2,495,020.00.

In what ways are you involved with collaborative research?

I collaborate with many groups around the world, from the USA, Spain, France, Poland, India, the UAE, and Tunisia. Several of them study cold and ultra-cold molecules. However, I have been collaborating with other colleagues studying alkali-rare gas van der Waals excimers used in high-power laser development, ionic alkali-rare gas clusters, and atom-molecule collision for interstellar interest.

Some of my collaborators are affiliated to the following institutions:

  • Department of Atomic, Molecular & Cluster Physics (FAMA) Institute of Fundamental Physics (IFF) Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.
  • Chatham University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Air Force Institute of Technology, Dayton, Ohio, USA.
  • Department of Chemistry, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
  • University of Warsaw, Poland.
  • Department of Materials Science, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science.
  • Laboratory of Quantum Physics and Chemistry, Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse, France.
  • Laboratory of Physics of Interfaces and Advanced Materials, University of Monastir, Tunisia.

What are the possible applications of your research?

The quantum nature of the molecules is observable when their temperature is a micro-Kelvin or less (1 micro-Kelvin= 0.000001 Kelvin). At this ultra-cold temperature each molecule forms a dipole and then dipole-dipole interactions are the most important interactions. These long-range interactions make molecules very sensitive to their orientation and position in the gas. This special situation allows researchers in the field to study and investigate mysterious phenomena such as superconductivity, superfluidity, magnetism, and phase transitions in quantum regime. In fact, there are a vast number of challenging technological developments that could be realized using these cold and ultra-cold molecules

The experimental control of cold and ultra-cold molecules can make them perfect and powerful resources for quantum information processing. The extension of the cooling and trapping techniques to biological molecular systems will provide a similar degree of control over them too. This will reveal their properties in great detail, which will permit a tremendously improved understanding of the molecular building blocks of life. 

How do you see the future of physics in the UAE?

Physics provides the fundamental understanding of how the physical world works. Studying physics reveals the beauty of the universe from subatomic to cosmological scales. In physics, students learn how to use mathematical skills and tools to solve complex problems. Physicists are problem solvers and their analytical skills make them flexible and adaptable to work in interesting fields. Besides, physics is the basis of engineering and many other science programs such as chemistry, oceanography, seismology, and astronomy. In addition, physics can be applied to biology or medical science. Therefore, a bachelor’s degree in physics can open many opportunities for jobs and/or possibilities of pursuing graduate studies in advanced domains.

Several universities in UAE have bachelor’s programs in Physics to serve the country’s needs, especially for teachers. This effort should be reinforced to provide the country with researchers and specialists in physics and in basic sciences in general.

Research projects are the basis of collaborations between researchers in all fields. If some applied fields can attract funds from industry, this is not easy for basic sciences. Therefore, at university level more funds should be devoted to basic sciences.

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Interview with Professor Hamid Berriche


Prof. Berriche has a PhD in Quantum Physics from Paul Sabatier University, France, was a research fellow at the Emerson Centre for Scientific Computing at Emory University, Atlanta, USA, and has received the President’s Outstanding Research Award at AURAK twice (2016, 2018).

Last updated: Jun 11, 2020 @ 4:37 pm

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