Australia's first nanoscience research facility opens, boosting quantum research

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The first nanoscience research centre in Australia has been launched, giving a boost to quantum research. The AU$150 million facility is collaborating on projects with Microsoft and the US government on technologies to enable quantum computing and communications.

The Sydney Nanoscience Hub was officially opened at the University of Sydney by the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST) on 20 April 2016.

One of the laboratories at the new facility, the Quantum Control Laboratory, has recently received a multimillion-dollar research grant from the United States for research in quantum technology.

The laboratory is the only Australian member in a new international consortium selected by the United States Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), as part of its LogiQ programme, to help deliver a logical qubit (quantum-bit) based on trapped ions. 

Quantum computing promises dramatic advantages over conventional computation, but progress has been stymied by the fragility of systems obeying the strange rules of quantum physics. The LogiQ programme aims to overcome these challenges by effectively stabilising the quantum hardware.

‘Ions represent a fantastic platform helping us to learn how we can exploit the most exotic phenomena in quantum physics as resources powering a new generation of technologies,’ Associate Professor Biercuk said. 

‘There remain enormous challenges bringing any quantum computing technology to reality, but trapped-ions have demonstrated the critical building blocks essential for this effort, decades ahead of other proposed technologies.’

The university is also collaborating with Microsoft on quantum computing. For more than a decade, the software giant has been undertaking theoretical quantum research through its quantum programme – known as Station Q – at the University of California, with an eye towards one day building a scalable universal quantum computer. Now, the blue-sky investment is ramping up as the Microsoft extends its efforts with experimental research that could usher in a new digital revolution.

‘The Microsoft quantum programme pushes to the very edge of physics and engineering in its goal of harnessing topological effects for computation,’ Microsoft Research Station Q director, Michael Freedman, said at the launch of Australia’s new facility.

As part of the work leading Station Q Sydney, Professor David Reilly said his focus in the next few years would be to scale up, constructing specialised electronic systems that operate both at room and cryogenic temperatures and go well beyond the specifications of off-the-shelf technology.

‘Building a quantum computer is a daunting challenge; it’s something that will only be realised in partnership with the world’s biggest technology companies and we’ve been fortunate to partner with Microsoft,’ said Professor Reilly.

‘To build a quantum computer you need more than just the [quantum] qubits; more than just the elementary constituents of matter – the electrons and so on. You also need a range of electronics and classical control technology that is pushing the limit of what’s available today.

‘So we’ve been focusing on both aspects in parallel and our plan is over the next few years to see these classical and quantum streams meet up in order to be able to build quantum machines.’

Further information:

Sydney Nanoscience Hub