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Erik van der Wurff (Utrecht University) has won the Lorentz Master Award for his master thesis on the collective behaviour of photons. Van der Wurff did his master research under supervision of Henk Stoof.

In 1995 the first experimental evidence for a fifth state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate, was given by Cornell, Wieman and Ketterle (Nobel Prize, 2001). In a Bose-Einstein condensate, individual atoms behave as a collective. In 2010 it turned out that, against the prevailing view, photons can exhibit the same kind of collective behaviour. In his master thesis, Van der Wurff studied and described this Bose-Einstein condensate of photons.

By assuming that photons repel each other, he could also describe more recent experimental results. In the second part of his thesis, Van der Wurff studied what could happen if the Bose Einstein condensate changes phase. It turned out that photons, like electrons in a metal, can get superconducting properties. The great advantage of superconducting photons is that this stage can be reached at room temperature, whereas superconducting in electrons demands extreme cooling.

Number fluctuations and Phase Diffusion in a Bose-Einstein Condensate of Light, E.C.I. van der Wurff


The Lorentz Afstudeerprijs is awarded annually by the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities ( KHMW) to a recently graduated theoretical physics master student with an outstanding thesis.