QuantIC doctorial researcher wins STEM for BRITAIN gold medal

Bernard Cooper, James Watt School of Engineering postgraduate researcher at the University of Glasgow, was awarded a gold medal in STEM for BRITAIN for his presentation on miniaturised cooling of quantum detectors.

STEM for BRITAIN is a prestigious scientific poster competition and exhibition which has been held in Parliament since 1997 and is organised by the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee. It aims to give members of the Houses of Parliament an insight into the outstanding research work being undertaken in UK universities by early-career researchers. Awards are made in physics, biological and biomedical sciences, chemistry, engineering and mathematical sciences.

When asked about the significance of this award Bernard said, “I am delighted to have won gold in the engineering category of STEM for BRITAIN. It is a great motivator to know my research was recognised by both members of parliament and other top academics from across the country. I am now looking forward to achieving the ambitious targets set out in my poster over the course of my doctorate.

Bernard started his industry-led studentship with QuantIC (UK Quantum Technology Hub for Quantum Enhanced Imaging) at the University of Glasgow in October 2020. A member of the Quantum Sensors Group in the Division of Electronics and Nanoscale Engineering, his doctorate, supported by industry partner Chase Research Cryogenics (CRC), is to develop innovative cryogenics for next generation of single photon detectors arrays.

In his winning presentation Bernard demonstrated how he plans to reduce the size, weight and power requirements of a cooling system that is required to allow superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors to function. Currently the available cooling systems are expensive, oversized and power hungry. Compact cooling is the key to deploying these quantum detectors in a range of emerging applications, for example producing 3D maps through LiDAR laser scanning to minimise road accidents, providing secure communication from satellites by detecting light quanta encoded with information or detecting short lived signals given off by dying tumour cells so laser cancer treatment can be performed with minimal harm to the patient.

“My solution is a 2-stage cooling system, that consists of a commercial medium scale cooler to reach -263 °C to pre-cool my custom-made microscale chip based cooler. The chip cooler design consists of narrow channels for gas to circulate around as its being driven by a micro-compressor to and from an expansion chamber where the cooling takes place. The detector will be connected to this end of the chip to cool to the required temperature. At the University of Glasgow we have access to world class chip fabrication through the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre.

“This miniature design will drastically reduce the cooling systems size weight and power requirements and cost of fraction of currently available options.

“This new combination will be cost effective for hospital settings, light enough for satellite use and compact enough to be fit neatly into a family car. This can be fully manufactured in the UK and sold to a global market to help establish Britain at the forefront of quantum imaging technologies.”

Chairman of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee, Mr Stephen Metcalfe MP, said
“This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to engage with a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.

“These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

Glasgow North West MP, Carol Monaghan, sent a personal congratulations to Bernard and recognised the world-leading expertise of Prof. Robert Hadfield’s Quantum Sensors Group at the University of Glasgow. Lodging an Early Day Motion 1612, which is a permanent digital parliamentary record at the Palace of Westminster, for their achievement.