News and Events


Robert Hadfield

QuantIC and University of Glasgow researcher Professor Robert Hadfield has been awarded  a Royal Society  Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship  to support his pioneering work on superconducting detectors, the world’s most sensitive detectors for infrared light.

Professor Hadfield has developed some of the world’s most sensitive detectors for single light quanta – photons – and deployed these detectors in a range of important emerging applications, including quantum cryptography, atmospheric remote sensing and dose monitoring for laser cancer treatment. The Fellowship will enable him to spend the next year concentrating in furthering his research in this field.

In addition to the Fellowship, Professor Hadfield has also been awarded a visiting professorship at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm under the Swedish Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology  where he is developing links for research collaboration. He said, “I am delighted to have received these prestigious awards.  This is a fantastic opportunity to explore new research avenues and strengthen our international links.  I am looking forward to contributing strongly to the next phase of QuantIC and the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.”

More information on Professor Hadfield’s Superconducting Nanowire detector with QuantIC can be found here.

Professor Hadfield’s research profile can be found here.

The Committee, which exists to ensure that government policy and decision-making are based on good scientific and engineering advice and evidence, were up in Glasgow last Thursday 28 June for a formal oral evidence session on the committee’s inquiry into quantum technologies. Quantum technologies have been selected by the Government as one of fourteen ‘core industrial challenges’ to be tackled and the inquiry was launched early 2018 by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to address the opportunities and challenges for quantum technologies.

House of Commons visit 280618

Following a written submission from QuantIC to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the Hub was asked to host an oral evidence session in connection with its inquiry which focussed on the next phase of the National Quantum Technologies Programme, and what was needed to support the UK’s quantum industry going forward.

In conjunction with the event at Kelvinhall, QuantIC also exhibited a number of demonstrators such as Wee-g, Indipix and the Multiplexed Single Photon timing Fluorescence system in advance of the session to the committee and also to the public, who had the opportunity to attend. Attending committee members, Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Bill Grant MP, Stephen Metcalfe MP and Carol Monaghan MP were “immensively impressed” with what they saw and our “inspiring” researchers.

QuantIC director, Professor Steve Beaumont said, “There is a rich network of collaborative relationships between academia and industry in developing quantum technologies in Scotland and I think the message came across loud and clear to the committee that there are still further opportunities to explore.”

A recording of the oral evidence can be viewed here.

Cameras that can make the invisible visible, sensors that can detect changes in the Earth’s magnetic fields and ion traps that are the building blocks of a quantum computer are just some of the technologies that will be on display at Quantum City at the Cheltenham Science Festival from 5 – 10 June 2018.

Quantum City Display set up

QuantIC is collaborating with partners of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQTP) to bring Quantum City to UK science festivals. The joint public engagement initiative which brings together researchers from the UK Quantum Technology Hubs, Centres for Doctoral Training and National Physical Laboratory to raise awareness and enthusiasm for quantum physics by showcasing the diversity of quantum technologies being developed across the programme. It is in response to feedback that the public would better relate to it if it was explained through applications which would have an impact in everyday life.

Quantum City will be at The Sphere in Cheltenham Science Festival, 5-10 June 2018 before heading to Glasgow, London and Oxford.

Quantum City is delivered by the following partners:
• Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
• The UK Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology (University of Birmingham)
• QuantIC, the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging (University of Glasgow)
• NQIT, the Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub (University of Oxford)
• Quantum Communications Hub (University of York)
• National Physical Laboratory
• Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Engineering (University of Bristol)
• Centre for Doctoral Training in Controlled Quantum Dynamics (Imperial College London)
• Centre for Doctoral Training in Delivering Quantum Technologies (University College London)

The precision of measuring nanoscopic structures could be substantially improved, thanks to researchers at QuantIC and the University of Warwick. Using pairs of photons, fundamental components of energy that make up light, the researchers have devised a way to measure the thickness of objects that are less than a 100,000th of the width of a human hair. The new technique involves firing two near identical photons onto a component known as a beamsplitter, and monitoring their subsequent behaviour – with some 30,000 photons detected per second, and 500bn in use throughout a full experiment.

Because of the tendency of identical photons to ‘buddy up’ and continue travelling on together — the result of a delicate quantum interference effect – the researchers’ newly developed setup offers the same precision and stability as existing one-photon techniques that, due to the equipment required, are more costly. Offering a range of potential uses, including research to better understand cell membranes and DNA, as well as quality control for nanoscopic 2D materials of a single atom’s thickness, such as graphene, the new research is also a marked improvement on current two-photon techniques with up to 100x better resolution.

Set up of two photon technique for measuring nanscopic structures.
Set up of the two photon technique for measuring nanscopic structures.

To measure the thickness of a transparent object (any object through which a photon is able to pass), each of a pair of identical photons are fired along separate paths:

• Photon A then continues into a beamsplitter, whilst Photon B is slowed down by a transparent object before entering the same beamsplitter.
• The likelihood that the photons exit the beamsplitter together is then recorded allowing researchers to measure the thickness of the transparent object Photon B passed through.

As the thickness of the sample is increased, the photons are more likely to exit the beamsplitter separately.

Dr George Knee of the University of Warwick’s Department of Physics, who developed the theory behind the new method, said,”What’s really exciting about these results is that we can now investigate objects down at the nanoscale with an optical sensor operating on a fundamentally different physical effect.Until now, so-called two-photon interference has not been able to achieve such great resolution, meaning that we are stuck with some of the downsides of the established methods based on single-photon interference – which requires more expensive technology than our new two-photon technique.”

QuantIC co-investigator and lead researcher on the project at the University of Glasgow, Professor Daniele Faccio, whose two photon sensing technology was used to generate the data said, “The results of our collaboration with the University of Warwick offer a range of potential uses in areas such the life sciences, optics and nanofabrication. We are excited to be advancing quantum imaging and helping to maintain the UK’s position in the development of new quantum technologies.”

The research paper, Attosecond-Resolution Hong-Ou-Mandel Interferometry, is published by Science Advances and can be accessed here.

If you’ve ever wished you could escape this world for another Universe, the winner of this year’s Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition offers a cautionary tale. In “Acceptable Loss” by Przemysław Zańko, a failed relationship puts the entire multiverse under threat. The story is one of five to claim prizes in the competition for fiction inspired by quantum physics. Each winner receives a cash award, certificate, and an engraved trophy.

Matt Edgar

QuantIC is the UK Scientific Partner in this annual competition for creative work inspired by quantum physics. It is organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore with media partners Scientific American and Nature and international scientific partners. It has alternated between calls for short films and flash fiction since 2012. The 2017 call for fiction ended with 18 stories shortlisted across open and youth categories. From these stories, the judging panels have selected a winner and runner up in each of the Open and Youth category. There is also a People’s Choice winner chosen by public poll on the shortlist. The entries had to include the phrase “There are only two possibilities: yes or no”.

Runner-up in the Open Category is “From the Ruins of Beijing”, in which writer Andrew Neil Gray extrapolates from today’s rapid progress in quantum computing into a fictional future where efforts are being derailed by unexplained noise in the machines.

In the Youth Category, for writers aged 13-18, three entries claim prizes. Nick Maslov takes first prize for “Two Words” for a well-told story of the end of the Universe. Runner-up is “End-User Agreement” by Morgan Long. The judges described it as funny, clever and original.

The People’s Choice prize – decided by voting across all the shortlisted stories – also goes to a Youth entry. The story “A Future with Fortran” by Lily Turaski took some 30% of the more than 1200 votes cast. It’s particularly fitting for this story to claim the People’s Choice award because the Lily wrote the sentence that all entries in 2017 had to include. The sentence was plucked from Lily’s winning 2015 story “The Qubits of College Acceptance”. She noted with her new submission that she “is thrilled to have her superposition sentence emulated in so many alternate realities in the entries of Quantum Shorts 2017.”

Congratulations to the winners! Read all the stories at https://shorts.quantumlah.org.

Quantum Shorts Winners 2018

QuantIC’s Professors Robert Henderson and Daniele Faccio were involved in organising the 1st International SPAD Sensor Workshop (ISSW) with Ecole Polytechnique Federal De Lausanne which took place 26-28 February 2018 in Les Diablerets, Switzerland. The workshop which focussed on the study, modelling, design, fabrication and characterisation of SPAD sensors, welcomed more than a hundred participants including many industrial attendees.

ISSW WorkshopPhoto

Professor Robert Henderson, who is guest editor of an MDPI special issue on the workshop said: “There’s been a growing interest in the field driven by Lidar but there was no forum specifically for SPADs, covering devices, technology and associated applications so the ISSW was organised to bridge the gap to further SPAD development between academia and industry.”

The workshop had a good turnout from industry and companies that presented included ArgoAI, SensL, TowerJazz, and Fastree3D. ST Microelectronics and Austria Microsystems also made product announcements on their multi-zone time of flight sensors. Universities that presented at the workshop included EPFL, Politecnico di Milano, Cornell, Stanford and UCLA. Professors Henderson and Faccio also presented their QuantIC research on SPADs for FLIM and Imaging at the speed of light respectively.

Feedback on the 1st ISSW has been wholly positive and there are plans to organise the next workshop, which will take place biennially, in Scotland. Watch this space.

Former QuantIC researcher from the University of Bristol, Xiao Ai, has started up Quantum Light Metrology (QLM), which has developed a drone mounted, quantum sensing solution capable of remotely detecting and quantifying minute methane leaks. This work was supported by QuantIC, an Impact award and the Quantum Technology Centre (QTEC) at the University of Bristol. The start-up has received funding from Innovate UK and has partnered with ID Quantique and Sky Futures on this venture.

QLM-464

Xiao Ai, founder and Chief Technology Officer at QLM said, “After 4 years of post-doc research developing Laser Radar Lidar for atmospheric sensing of Carbon Dioxide, I realized, that to reduce carbon emission, we first needed to understand the sources and locations of anthropogenic emissions. QLM’s laser radar is capable of remotely detecting and quantifying the lowest leak rate required by the Oil and Gas industry, out to a 150-metre operational distance. This brings a 10-fold sensitivity improvement over our closest competitor, which enables a significant performance improvement in scanning and imaging capabilities.”

QuantIC’s Professor John Rarity co-developed QLM’s technology and is also involved as Chief Scientific Officer. He said, “QuantIC’s input was invaluable as it enabled the continuous funding of this work to develop the first demonstrator buffering that critical gap between academic research and commercial realisation”.

In purely economic terms, methane leaks from well-heads and pipelines cost the Oil and Gas industry between $6bn and $30bn a year. In the US, methane leaks from the natural gas and petroleum industry are now the number one source of methane emissions, surpassing livestock digestion and landfill. Although it is found in much lower concentrations than carbon dioxide, methane is around 25 times more potent, meaning that it still accounts for 28 percent of the amount of warming caused by carbon dioxide.

QLM’s technology is lightweight, low-powered and capable of delivering an unprecedented 30 miles per hour surveying speed when mounted on a drone. This has potential, especially in the Oil and Gas industry for a better understanding of emissions that could result in cost effective mitigating strategies and improved health and safety measures for the sector.

QuantIC wishes QLM all the best!

For more information, visit https://www.qlmtec.com/

QuantIC Professors Giles Hammond and Robert Henderson have been made Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). Professor Hammond is Professor of Experimental Gravitational Physics at the University of Glasgow while Professor Henderson is Personal Chair of Electronic Imaging in the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. They are two of 66 new Fellows elected to the RSE this year.

RSE Academics

The RSE is a leading educational charity which operates on an independent and non-party-political basis to provide public benefit throughout Scotland. Established by Royal Charter in 1783, the work of Scotland’s National Academy includes awarding research funding, leading on major inquiries, informing public policy and delivery events across Scotland to inspire knowledge and learning. The Fellows come from a wide range of disciplines, including the arts, business, science and technology and academia.

Professor Hammond’s work in QuantIC focusses on Wee-g, a MEMS based accelerometer capable of measuring tiny changes in the gravitational field which has generated significant industrial interest of commercialisation. More info on Wee-g can be found here.

Professor Henderson’s work in QuantIC focusses on QuantICAM, a CMOS SPAD which offers both single photon sensitivity and high precision time of arrival detection. This has applications in areas such as time-of-flight 3D imaging, positron emission tomography and time-resolved live-cell microscopy. More information on QuantICAM can be found here.

As part of the remit for responsible research and innovation, QuantIC took part in an EPSRC commissioned research to understand the public’s perceptions and values in relation to the capabilities of quantum technologies currently under development in the UK, and to also understand any concerns, aspirations and priorities that they might have for the future  development and deployment of quantum technologies. The public dialogue workshops were organized in locations where the network of UK quantum technology hubs were based and QuantIC actively fielded its researchers to participate in the sessions held in Glasgow.

QT Public Dialogue Collage

An interim activity between the workshops was also organized for the respondents and this consisted of a personalised after hours tour of QuantIC’s “Making the invisible visible” exhibit at the Glasgow Science Centre. The Hub’s researchers also brought in demonstrators specially and this allowed the respondents to visualise how the research had evolved into a new technology and the potential applications and uses it offered. The respondents’ feedback on the interim activity indicated that the event had boosted their interest in quantum technologies with comments such as “It was very interesting to see things visually as well as in theory” and “Really enjoyed this evening. I have a better understanding of quantum”.

Judging by the reactions from the public dialogue workshops in Glasgow, it seemed that respondents were positive to the capabilities of quantum technologies being developed as part of the UK National Quantum Technology Programme and QuantIC is looking forward to the final report on the public dialogue which will be published by EPSRC.