UChicago to lead quantum engineering research team

May 14, 2014, University of Chicago
UChicago to lead quantum engineering research team
This scanning electron microscope image of an integrated quantum device shows a mechanically suspended crystal (blue) with metal electrodes (yellow) and a semiconductor photonic circuit (red). The scale bar at upper left measures 10 microns, much less than the diameter of a human hair. The device seamlessly transfers signals between optical and electrical quantum states, which have significantly different characteristics. Credit: Andrew Cleland

The University of Chicago's Institute for Molecular Engineering will lead a team of researchers from five universities in an ambitious five-year, $6.75 million project to create a new class of quantum devices that will allow communication among quantum computers.

Compared to binary computing, the use of quantum states of matter to communicate and store information could radically increase computing memory and speed and completely change how society thinks about information. Recent dramatic advances in this field have prompted researchers to begin considering quantum computing as a realistic possibility.

"It's turning out to be less complicated to manipulate quantum states in semiconductors and superconductors than previously imagined," said project lead scientist David Awschalom, a physicist and the institute's Liew Family Professor in Spintronics and Quantum Information.

This team has an ambitious plan to engineer these capabilities toward the establishment of quantum networks. "In order to combine these states into something more complex, we need a technology that connects individual quantum states together, using 'quantum wiring' that transfers information from one quantum device to another," Awschalom said.

One goal of the new project is to communicate information between electrical quantum states and light using high-frequency mechanical motion as the intermediary. Specifically, the team will exploit the piezoelectric effect in optomechanical devices so as to transfer information between optical, vibrational and electrical quantum states. Piezoelectric materials develop an electric charge in response to a stress, and thus provide a means to mechanically control information transfer between electrons and photons. Such devices would be a first step in connecting local quantum states to an optical transmission network.

In addition to Awschalom and Andrew Cleland, UChicago professor in , the team includes Sunil Bhave of Cornell University, Michel Devoret and Hong Tang of Yale University, Andrei Faraon of the California Institute of Technology and Aashish Clerk of McGill University.

The team will develop similar to those used in smartphones, integrated as tiny electromechanical devices, with sizes down to the nanometer scale (a virus measures 50 to 100 nanometers in diameter, a thousand times smaller than a human hair). These devices will be designed to vibrate mechanically at frequencies above a billion times a second, as well as trap light in their interior.

"The idea is that in these devices, you can make light and mechanics lose their separate identities, so that can transfer seamlessly from one to the other," Cleland said. "The use of piezoelectricity then gives you a direct line into an electrical quantum system, such as a superconducting quantum bit."

"We want to show that in principle this is possible, and to build functional devices in just a few years. It's very ambitious," Awschalom said. "We have assembled a team to synthesize novel materials, manipulate quantum states with photonics and electronics, fabricate robust devices at the , develop communication links between these devices and model these functions with realistic theoretical models," he continued. "This is the type of research that no individual person on this team could do themselves. You need a collaborative group of talented scientists and engineers," Awschalom said.

"If Prof. Awschalom's team is successful in solving this hard problem, their work will enable new types of computers that operate exponentially faster than today's computers to solve certain problems that realistically cannot be solved with any modern computer," said Henry Everitt, a senior research scientist for the U.S. Army at Redstone Arsenal and adjunct professor of physics at Duke University, who is unconnected with the project. "Their work will also enable new forms of secure communication and new types of sensors for some of the most delicate interactions in nature," Everitt explained.

The research is funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research through the Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program, which supports basic research conducted by teams of investigators that intersect more than one traditional science and engineering discipline. The UChicago-led project is one of only 24 MURI projects funded in 2014.

Explore further: Researchers make headway in quantum information transfer via nanomechanical coupling

Related Stories

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

April 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. They report their ...

Probing the sound of a quantum dot

April 24, 2014

(Phys.org) —Physicists at the University of Sydney have discovered a method of using microwaves to probe the sounds of a quantum dot, a promising platform for building a quantum computer.

In quantum computing, light may lead the way

October 8, 2013

(Phys.org) —Light might be able to play a bigger, more versatile role in the future of quantum computing, according to new research by Yale University scientists.

Quantum computer components 'coalesce' to 'converse'

October 26, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- If quantum computers are ever to be realized, they likely will be made of different types of parts that will need to share information with one another, just like the memory and logic circuits in today's ...

Recommended for you

A new model of frequency combs in optical microresonators

January 24, 2018

A team from the Faculty of Physics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, together with scientists from the Russian Quantum Center, have developed a new mathematical model that describes the process of soliton occurrence ...

Retrospective test for quantum computers can build trust

January 24, 2018

Tech companies are racing to make commercial quantum computers. A new scheme from researchers in Singapore and Japan could help customers establish trust in buying time on such machines—and protect companies from dishonest ...

Scientists achieve high power with new smaller laser

January 24, 2018

An international team of scientists has produced the first high-powered, randomly polarised laser beam with a "Q switch" laser, which typically emits pulses of light so brief that they're measured in nanoseconds. Lasers are ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.