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Sussex scientists receive £5.5m to develop next-generation quantum technology devices

Dr Winfried Hensinger and researcher Dr Seb Weidt of the Ion Quantum Technology Group at work in their lab

Sussex scientists have been awarded £5.5 million to develop devices that could radically change how we measure time, navigate our world and solve seemingly impossible mathematical equations.

The grant, received by members of the University’s Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (AMO) research group, represents part of a £270 million UK government investment announced today (26 November) to convert quantum physics research into commercial products.

Quantum technology is the applied field of quantum theory. It includes such phenomena as “quantum entanglement”, the idea that objects are not independent if they have interacted with each other or come into being through the same process, and that changing one will also change the other, no matter how far apart they are.

Members of the AMO group have become part of two major national quantum centres: the UK Quantum Technology Hub on Networked Quantum Information Technologies and the UK Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology. These centres bring together universities and industry to develop and construct quantum technologies.

The award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will help to fund several Sussex research projects: 

  • Dr Jacob Dunningham will be developing a theory to understand how remote objects can be detected with exquisite precision by making use of a networks of sensors linked by quantum entanglement.
  • Prof Barry Garraway will design new rotation sensors for compact navigation devices using atom-chip technology.
  • Dr Winfried Hensinger, as part of one hub, will develop the quantum processor microchip architecture and a new technique of quantum processing using microwave radiation to enable the construction of a large-scale “super-fast” quantum computer. As part of the other hub, he will develop powerful portable sensors able to detect magnetic fields with unprecedented accuracy utilizing a new generation of microchips capable of holding arrays of individual charged atoms.
  • Dr Matthias Keller will develop a network connecting several quantum processors through the exchange of single photons, resulting in a new version of the internet, the so-called 'quantum internet'.
  • Dr Alessia Pasquazi will develop miniature, ultra-fast, photonic sources of light that form the heart of a new generation of quantum sensors and navigation devices.
  • Dr Marco Peccianti will shrink to the size of a shoe box an "optical frequency comb", a highly accurate clock currently found only in state-of-the-art laboratories.

In response to the funding news, Professor Peter Coles, Head of the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, said: “Quantum sensors offer amazing possibilities for smaller and lighter devices with extraordinary precision. As a consequence, quantum theory promises revolutionary technological applications in computing, measurement, navigation, and security."

Professor Michael Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: “This new research programme will consolidate the reputation of the University of Sussex as one of the world-leading centres for the development of ground-breaking quantum technologies.”

The research will be supplemented by a significant Sussex investment and will make use of the world-leading multi-million pound quantum technology laboratories located at the University.

Professor Coles added: “Our pioneering ‘MSc in Frontiers of Quantum Technology’ programme along with numerous PhD positions will provide training for a new generation of researchers and developers to be employed in the emerging quantum technology sector.”

Greg Clark, Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, said: “This exciting new Quantum Hubs network will push the boundaries of knowledge and exploit new technologies, to the benefit of healthcare, communications and security.

“Today’s announcement is another example of the government’s recognition of the UK’s science base and its critical contribution to our sustained economic growth.”

Notes for editors

  • The UK Quantum Technology Hub on Networked Quantum Information Technologies is an alliance of 9 UK universities and numerous companies and will develop a network of optically linked quantum processors, based on charged atoms (i.e. ions) with a vision to provide technology enabling phenomenal computational and sensory power.  
  • The UK Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology includes 6 UK universities and aims to transform quantum science into high technology for development by industry.
  • Sussex is one of several UK universities to receive a share of £270,000,000 from the EPSRC, the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.
  • Contact details and more information can be found here: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/amo/research/qtech.  Information about the MSc in Frontiers in Quantum Technology can be found here: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/physics/pgstudy/2014/taught/30493
  • University of Sussex Press Office:  Tel: 01273 678888 Email: press@sussex.ac.uk

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 27 November 2014

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