Thomas Mertens - BHHQG

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Black Hole Horizons in Quantum Gravity (5 years, 1 PI, 3 PhD students, 2 Postdocs)

The project BHHQG aims to further our theoretical understanding of black holes and their horizons in quantum gravity. The approach is to combine lower dimensions with holography, allowing for a tractable yet relevant line of attack on this notorious problem.

The principal investigator Thomas Mertens ( ⁰1988) first studied Engineering Physics at Ghent University, obtaining his Bachelor and Master degree in 2009 and 2011 respectively. He then pursued a PhD (2011-2015) in the field of High Energy Theoretical Physics at Ghent University, after which he spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University, followed by a junior and senior FWO postdoctoral fellowship at Ghent University. He has been supported by various grants: the Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF), the Fulbright program, Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), and recently an ERC starting grant. In September 2022 he joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ghent University as an associate professor.

Project description

Black holes are some of the most mysterious objects in our universe, that have only recently been observed astronomically in spectacular fashion. Yet, we do not even in principle understand their inner workings. In particular, puzzles surrounding Hawking’s black hole information paradox such as “What happens as we fall through the event horizon?“ or “How precisely does the initial information come out after the black hole evaporates?” are largely left unanswered in our current understanding of quantum gravity. In BHHQG, the project of Thomas Mertens, this problem will be tackled by studying holographic models of lower-dimensional gravity. Within this set-up, a specific model of gravity, the so-called Jackiw-Teitelboim (or JT) model, has been constructed and very recently solved exactly at the quantum level, which is unprecedented for any gravitational model. In this project, we will leverage this knowledge towards understanding black hole horizons and the black hole information paradox.


These are the objectives of BHHQG:

  • Develop new techniques in the JT model itself to address puzzles surrounding the black hole information paradox.
  • Investigate the universality of the methods and results by embedding this gravitational model within an entire family of solvable models. Armed with these results, we aim to extrapolate to higher dimensions and to our physical universe.

Role of Ghent University

Ghent University is the host institution for the duration of the project.




Prof. Dr. Thomas G. Mertens
Department of Physics and Astronomy