News and Events

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

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.


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

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.

The Hub highlighted its strong collaborative relationships with industry

QuantIC attended its first Photonics West in 2017 with a small stand and following the positive reception, the Hub was back this year with a bigger footprint showcasing new imaging technology developed through its industrial partnership projects. Exhibits included the Gas sight camera with M Squared Lasers, Fresnel cone technology with Gooch and Housego, and the Quanticam based Photon Counting FLIM Camera with Horiba Scientific.

Photonics West 2018

Dr David McLoskey, Managing Director of Horiba Scientific, who was on hand to exhibit with the QuantIC team said, “Showcasing HORIBA’s Quanticam-based Photon Counting FLIM System at Photonics West was an excellent networking opportunity and we thank the QuantIC team for making it possible.”

The Scottish Optoelectronics Association (SOA) had also been invited to exhibit with QuantIC at Photonics West 2018, highlighting the Hub’s relationship with the photonics industry in Scotland. ‘The SOA was delighted to co-exhibit with QuantIC at Photonics West 2018’, said Stephen Taylor, CEO of Technology Scotland. ‘It was fantastic to see the ground-breaking work of QuantIC and other SOA members being showcased at the world’s largest photonics event, and to co-host a Whisky Tasting, which attracted a very large gathering.”

SPIE Photonics West broke attendance records this year with over 23,000 registered attendees. Over 1300 companies exhibited and the exhibition saw a 10% increase in visitors.

QuantIC has plans to exhibit at a number of events this year. Follow us on twitter @QuantIC_QTHub for the latest updates.

The Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition had a record number of entries when it closed the call for entries on 1 Dec 2017.

Quantum Shorts 2017-Ver2

The shortlisting panel members of the Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition have read thousands and thousands of words across hundreds of stories to choose the shortlists and we are thrilled to announce ten finalists in the competition’s open category and eight in the youth category, coming from writers around the world. Each story takes inspiration from quantum physics, is no more than 1000 words long, and includes the phrase “There are only two possibilities: yes or no”.

All of these writers have already won prizes – with more awards to be decided by our distinguished judges. Now it’s time for you to help someone get even more reward for their writing. You can vote in the People’s Choice prize from now until 23:59 GMT on Thursday 15 February. The story that gets the most support will win a People’s Choice prize of $500.

Click on this link to read all the shortlisted entries and vote for your favourite!

Happy reading!!


QuantIC, the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging is part of the UK Pavilion at Photonics West in San Francisco and will be showcasing its industry partnership projects at North Hall, Stand 5145 from 30 January to 1 February 2018.

SPIE Photonics West is the world’s largest annual event for the photonics, laser and biomedical optics industries. Consisting of three conferences and two world-class exhibitions, the event is expected to draw over 20,000 attendees.

This year, a hot topic in the industry programme includes global investment in quantum technology, and its apt that QuantIC is attending. The Hub will be exhibiting its industrial partnership projects with M Squared Lasers, Gooch and Housego and Horiba Scientific as well as start-up Photon Force. The team will be available for technical discussions to explore potential new opportunities to collaborate and commercialise quantum imaging technologies.

QuantIC and the Scottish Optoelectronics Association (SOA) will also be hosting a Scotch Whiskey tasting on 31 January at the stand and we look forward to seeing you there!

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QuantIC highlighted the rapid pace and strength of its academic-industrial collaboration with a record 12 technology demonstrators at the 2017 National Quantum Technologies Showcase in London, a threefold increase from the inaugural event in 2015.

QT Showcase 17 Collage

The industry event highlights new technological innovation from the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, which aims to make the UK the “go-to” place for the development and commercialisation of quantum technologies. This year, over 600 people attended the event which featured breakout sessions on industrial collaboration and over 50 exhibits with potential applications in sectors such as photonics, autonomous vehicles, medical imaging, finance and many more.

The hub’s exhibits included low cost 3D imaging, seeing through scattering media with single photon imaging, Wee-g (an ultra-sensitive MEMS gravimeter), Fresnel cones for optimised structured polarisation beans, a multiplexed fluorescence lifetime microscopy camera and Indipix (a new type of mid-infrared sensor). Many of these demonstrators have been developed with industrial partners such as M Squared Lasers, Horiba Scientific, Gooch and Housego, Clyde Space and Thales.

Professor Miles Padgett, QuantIC’s Principal Investigator said, “Taking the ideas inspired by quantum physics that are born in a university research laboratory and turning them into innovative quantum enhanced imaging technology through industrial collaboration is what QuantIC does. I’m already looking forward to what we’ll be able to present at next year’s event”.

If you are interested in finding out more about our technologies and ways to collaborate, please get in touch with our Business Development team.