The surprising effect of nothing

In 2015, a team in Strasbourg made an amazing (and controversial) claim: The electrical conductivity of a material can be dramatically enhanced by embedding it in a tailored photonic environment. Remarkably, light was not involved.  The enhancement was due to the coupling of electron-hole pairs to the vacuum field, i.e., to nothing.  The team recently doubled down on their claim, showing new measurements of conductivity enhancements mediated by the vacuum field. Meanwhile, theorists are divided: some reported theoretical models reproducing this effect, while others claim that the effect is an “artifact” and the models don’t correspond to the experiment. We are looking for a Masters student to dive into this exciting problem. In this context, you will perform correlated electrical and optical measurements of nanomaterials in a tunable photonic environment. Your experiments will close loopholes in the ones from Strasbourg, and shine light onto this problem once and for all.