News and Events
QuantIC was thrilled to present its “light in flight” research to the public at the IOP Festival of Physics last weekend at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. The stand was part of Quantum City, the national public engagement strategy for the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.
Visitors were able to get their picture taken at the speed of light and QuantIC’s new augmented reality exhibit demonstrated how a camera could see around corners or behind a wall. And for a number of researchers from the Hub, the event was also their first foray into public engagement. PhD student Jack Radford said, “It was my first public engagement event and I had a great day! I had some great in depth conversations about physics and quantum technologies with members of the public. I enjoyed trying to answer difficult physics questions in a simplistic way to get people excited about science! Their enthusiasm to understand complex physics certainly rubbed off on me and re-ignited my excitement about my own research. A lot of kids loved playing with our demonstrations, often getting hands on rearranging the equipment in Augmented Reality (AR) and doing the floss dance with our 3D imaging camera. Chiming in, PhD student Gabriella Mussara said, “By taking part, I got the chance to share my current topic of research with an audience from a completely different background.” Another public engagement first timer PhD student Lucrezia Cester added, “The Festival of Physics allowed me to share my work with kids, which I hope will be intrigued and inspired to follow a career in science.”
The public’s response to Quantum City was overwhelmingly positive, with almost 96% positive feedback received from visitors and lovely comments such as “very interesting technology” and “really interesting. I can see my son being inspired”. The Festival of Physics, which was organised by the Institute of Physics, attracted over 3,700 visitors over the two days.
QuantIC was excited to be involved in “Photonics Meets Real World Applications”, a joint doctoral training careers workshop for the EPSRC CDTs in Photonic Integration & Advanced Data Storage, Applied Photonics, and Intelligent Sensing & Measurement last week in Glasgow. The event, was an opportunity for CDT students to foster collaboration with industry and academic partners to foster collaboration and also provided them insight into knowledge transfer practices and working in industry.
Dr Richard Middlemiss, one of QuantIC’s researchers, was invited to speak at the event where he shared his experience on Wee-g, from taking it out of the labs and closer to commercialisation by working at Kelvin Nanotechnology. He said, “At the workshop I gave a talk on my experiences of working on an R&D project I have been working on for the last 6 years – the development of a new type of sensor for imaging things underground (e.g. magma under volcanos). Recently I spent 9 months on secondment with a nanotechnology company – KNT. It was an interesting experience to see the contrast of how industry and academia approach the same problem.”
The event, which was attended by 60 PhD students from universities across Scotland and Belfast, also saw QuantIC industry partners such as M Squared Lasers, Compound Semiconductor Technologies, Leonardo and KNT speaking about careers in the different sectors, including quantum technologies, where photonics is expected to play a leading role.
QuantIC’s new augmented reality exhibit was met with wild enthusiasm by visitors at New Scientist Live in London where it was exhibited as part of Quantum City last weekend. The interactive exhibit was developed specially to raise awareness of the Hub’s technologies such as photon-counting LIDAR and gas imaging and to act as a catalyst to encourage the public to ask questions about the technologies’ potential applications in for example, autonomous vehicles of the future.
QuantIC researcher and exhibitor Ermes Toninelli said, “Kids and grown-ups had fun looking at the reflections of photons from a virtual light-source, scattering and reflecting off of a mannequin head. I knew it was a success when I saw an improvised ‘quantum optics scientist’ trying to catch some of the scattered photons in mid-air, lost between the illusion of a virtual and real world.” The exhibit was also popular with some well known personalities in the scientific community, including Dr Patrick Valance, the government’s chief scientific advisor and British astronaut Tim Peake.
QuantIC’s Dr Matt Edgar said, “If I had to pick one highlight of the day, it would be when British astronaut Tim Peake found time in his busy schedule to engage with our exhibit, learn about our world research and become an experimental quantum physicist for the day!” He added, “Overall our experience at New Scientist Live has given me confidence that our new exhibit really works and will make a big impact on the public for many years to come.”
Developed with support from The Leverhulme Trust, there are also plans to take QuantIC’s augmented reality exhibit to other science festivals as well as into schools to encourage students to consider studying physics and engineering at university.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.