The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded funding to three projects at its Argonne National Laboratory to lay the groundwork for breakthroughs in quantum information science, or QIS. The awards are part of a new $61 million investment, announced today, by DOE in quantum science and engineering. Tomorrow’s quantum sensors, computers and networks will share, process and secure exponentially more information — starting with the scientific data that will make this wave of the future possible.
“Harnessing the quantum world will create new forms of computers and accelerate our ability to process information and tackle complex problems like climate change,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE and our labs across the country are leading the way on this critical research that will strengthen our global competitiveness and help corner the markets of these growing industries that will deliver the solutions of the future.”
The Argonne projects that received awards are:
Future quantum network designs are based on materials that emit a single particle of light at a time. Known as quantum emitters, these materials are almost unimaginably small — nanoscopic in scale. The emitter might be a single atom, or it might be a few nanometers across.
Today’s tools are inadequate for capturing the emitters’ atomic or electronic structures in a way that would allow scientists to improve them for quantum applications.
Supported by the DOE award and using resources at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, a team of Argonne researchers led by scientist Jianguo Wen will develop a microscope that brings these nanoscopic emitters’ characteristics into sharp focus. This will enable scientists to precisely measure an emitter’s features and optimize the emitter for quantum networks. The tool, the Quantum Emitter Electron Nanomaterial Microscope, or QuEEN-M, combines recent developments in electron beam pulsers to create entirely novel capabilities that can be applied to a wide array of scientific and technical problems in quantum information science.
“It is an honor for our team to receive this award, which recognizes that basic science is an indispensable base for building meaningful, practical technologies,” Wen said. “We expect that QuEEN-M will enable high-impact science not only in QIS, but in other areas as well.”
Spin is a property of nature’s smallest constituents, one that can store quantum information similar to the way a traditional computer bit stores data.
The spins associated with a crystal’s innermost defects are known to be exceptionally good at quantum data storage, but the location has a cost: Because the defect-hosted spin is so deeply embedded, it is challenging to access and manipulate the spin and to position the host defect itself. What if the potential of these isolated spins could be unlocked by bringing them closer to the crystal’s surface?
Argonne scientist Jeffrey Guest will lead a group of researchers at Argonne and the University of Chicago to explore this possibility using resources at the CNM. Supported by the DOE award, the team will develop the Atomic Quantum Information Surface Science (AQuISS) Lab to better understand and control defects near the crystal’s surface, as well as surface dopants (foreign substances added to the crystal to change its properties). This will allow them to learn how to manipulate surface spin sites to better hold and manipulate quantum information. They will also seek to develop new materials and spins on crystal surfaces, improving them for quantum information storage and processing.
“The intersection of nanoscience, surface science and quantum information science provides a challenging but powerful frontier for fundamental studies and the development of next-generation quantum technologies,” Guest said. “We are grateful for the award, which will give us the opportunity to build up instrumentation and experiments targeted for the exploration and development of surfaces for quantum information science. The more we can explore and understand the nature of quantum information at surfaces, the more we can take advantage of the unique benefits of surfaces and nanoscale science to advance this field.”
Reliable and scalable information distribution in quantum networks
Recent experiments at Argonne and elsewhere have demonstrated that it is possible to use optical fiber to send and receive quantum information across cities.
The prospect of realizing a quantum internet is exciting, but scientists must still develop protocols that will allow scaling the network to support many users. Moreover, the quantum internet will be made of components of various makes and models and process different types of quantum information. How can the network’s varied components be made compatible with each other and at the same time ensure that information is transmitted reliably? Similar to the regular internet, supporting heterogeneous technologies that evolve over time will be crucial for long-term success of the network.
Argonne scientist Martin Suchara and colleagues at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will use the new DOE funding to design a quantum internet protocol that manages different types of quantum information encoding. They’ll also examine how quantum states are transformed from one type into another inside a quantum network with multiple senders and recipients. Their studies will enable them to improve the flow of information through a network, using the Argonne quantum network as a test site.
“A quantum internet would of course open a whole new infrastructure for sharing information,” Suchara said. “I’m grateful for this award to our multi-institutional team, which will use the funding to develop theory and practical protocols that are necessary precursors to developing a quantum internet that stretches across the continent.”
This work is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
About Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials
The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit https://science.osti.gov/User-Facilities/User-Facilities-at-a-Glance.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.