Paul van Gerven
10 December 2020

University of Twente researcher Jan Klärs has been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to solve complex mathematical problems using an optical computer. Working as an assistant professor of nanophotonics in the Complex Photonics Group, Klärs intends to demonstrate that an optical setup consisting of lasers and resonators is capable of solving certain problems much faster than conventional computers.

UT spin glass
Credit: University of Twente

The researcher has set his sights on the so-called spin glass problem. This concerns the situation in which, at a certain temperature, spins in a magnetic material seem to have no preferred orientation. They’re disordered in a way that is similar to the way atoms are arranged in a glassy material. There still isn’t a good explanation for the spin glass state, partly because current computing technology isn’t very successful in tackling the problem.

The spin glass problem is also a model for other large-scale mathematical problems in artificial intelligence, logistics and DNA sequencing, among other things.