New research centre at Sydney University aims to bring quantum computing out of the laboratory into the real world

Above photo: Director of Station Q Sydney and the Quantum Nanoscience Laboratory, Professor David Reilly (front), with University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence and Microsoft United States guests Mr Douglas Carmean and Mr David Pritchard. Credit: Jayne Ion/ Credit: Unviersity of Sydney

The University of Sydney has entered in a multi-year quantum computing partnership with Microsoft to set up Station Q Sydney, a new centre for accelerating research, scaling-up devices and taking quantum computing to real-world applications.

The partnership will bring state-of-the-art equipment, allow the recruitment of new staff, help build scientific and engineering talent, and focus significant research project funding into the University. It is expected to help prepare Australia for playing a key role in the emerging “quantum economy.”

Quantum computing could efficiently solve problems which cannot be tackled feasibly with classical computers.In the 21st century, quantum computing will most likely bring about a paradigm shift in computing technology, potentially transforming many aspects of the global economy and society at large.

Station Q is led by scientific director Professor David Reilly from the School of Physics. Housed inside the AU$150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub, Station Q Sydney is Microsoft’s fourth such experimental site, joining labs at Purdue University, Delft University of Technology, and the University of Copenhagen.

Professor Reilly and his team at Station Q Sydney will focus on bringing quantum computing out of the laboratory and into the real world.

“We’ve reached a point where we can move from mathematical modelling and theory to applied engineering for significant scale-up,” Professor Reilly said.

A big part of the work in Sydney is related to the interface between quantum systems and their specialised classical control and readout hardware. The research team is exploring the engineering challenges for reading out and controlling qubits[1] in scaled-up architectures. In addition, specialised instrumentation and tools are being developed for undertaking the next generation of quantum experiments, such as high-speed cryogenic electronics. The facilities at Sydney include purpose built laboratories and cleanrooms for nanofabrication and quantum science.

The team has already demonstrated how spin-off quantum technologies can be used in the near-future to help detect and track early-stage cancers using the quantum properties of nanodiamonds (tiny, synthetic crystallites of carbon atoms, brought together at a non-scale).

Microsoft’s David Pritchard, Chief of Staff for Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, talked about quantum computing being a key strategic pillar within Microsoft’s AI and Research Group. The quantum computing effort is being led by Todd Holmdahl, the creator of the Xbox and HoloLens.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, said, “Professor Reilly has helped create an international quantum hub in Sydney, resulting in a game-changing collaboration with industry leaders, building also on our whole-of-University commitment to multidisciplinary approaches to frontier research – as embodied in our Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST).”  “With cutting-edge nanoscience facilities and unique pathways to commercialisation, Sydney is now experiencing the emergence of a quantum economy, which has the potential to create untold educational and economic opportunities for NSW and Australia, just as Silicon Valley has done in California,” he added.

[1]A qubit or a quantum bit is the quantum analogue of the classical bit. A qubit is a two-state quantum-mechanical system, such as the polarisation of a single photon. here the two states are vertical polarization and horizontal polarisation.  In a classical system, a bit would have to be in one state or the other. However, quantum mechanics allows the qubit to be in a superposition of both states at the same time.

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