WQI team named winners in international quantum research competition

A WQI faculty team was one of 18 winners in the Innovare Advancement Center’s “Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator” competition, which awarded a total of $1.35 million last week. The winning teams, including UW­–Madison physics professors Shimon Kolkowitz and Mark Saffman, each earned $75,000 toward their proposed research.

a blue glowing dot in the center of a chamber
A view into the strontium optical lattice clock vacuum chamber in the Kolkowitz lab | photo: Shimon Kolowitz

The competition attracted nearly 250 proposals from teams across the world in the areas of quantum timing, sensing, computing and communications, and 36 teams were invited to present at the live virtual event.

“The format was a bit like ‘Shark Tank’ in that any researcher from around the world was invited to submit a short white paper, and then 36 finalists were selected to make 10-minute pitch to judges,” explains Kolkowitz. “The 18 winners were then selected based on their pitches.”

The WQI team won in the quantum timing category for their pitch, “Reducing optical lattice clock size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements while improving accuracy with precision Rydberg spectroscopy.”

“Optical atomic clocks are the most precise and accurate devices ever built by humankind,” Kolkowitz says. “This project, which is a collaboration between Mark Saffman and myself, will help to make these clocks more portable and robust while maintaining or even further improving their accuracy, which will enable their use in applications such as navigation, mapping, and sensing.”

The competition was part of a three-day Innovare kickoff event held virtually September 1-3. The 36 finalists presented over the first two days, and winners were announced on the last day. Funding for the competition comes from the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

UW–Madison named member of new $25 million Midwest quantum science institute

As joint members of a Midwest quantum science collaboration, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the University of Chicago have been named partners in a National Science Foundation Quantum Leap Challenge Institute, NSF announced Tuesday.

The five-year, $25 million NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks (HQAN) was one of three in this first round of NSF Quantum Leap funding and helps establish the region as a major hub of quantum science. HQAN’s principal investigator, Brian DeMarco, is a professor of physics at UIUC. UW–Madison professor of physics Mark Saffman and University of Chicago engineering professor Hannes Bernien are co-principal investigators.

“HQAN is very much a regional institute that will allow us to accelerate in directions in which we’ve already been headed and to start new collaborative projects between departments at UW–Madison as well as between us, the University of Illinois, and the University of Chicago.” says Saffman, who is also director of the Wisconsin Quantum Institute. “These flagship institutes are being established as part of the National Quantum Initiative Act that was funded by Congress, and it is a recognition of the strength of quantum information research at UW–Madison that we are among the first.”

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cartoon showing a quantum hardware network
In a hybrid quantum network, hardware for storing and processing quantum information is linked together. This design could be beneficial for applications that rely on distributed quantum computing resources. | Credit: E. Edwards, IQUIST

Two students earn 2020 QISE-NET awards

Two physics graduate students, Xiaoyu Jiang and Abigail Shearrow, have had their projects awarded funding through QISE-NET, the Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network. Run through the University of Chicago, QISE-NET is open to any student pursuing an advanced degree in any field of quantum science. Jiang, Shearrow, and other students in their cohort earn up to three years of support, including funding, mentoring and training at annual workshops. All awardees are paired with a mentoring QISE company or national lab, at which they will complete part of their projects. Jiang and Shearrow explain their projects below.

a male student poses with his arms out behind a computer screen
Xiaoyu Jiang
Xiaoyu Yang, Saffman Group | Mentoring partner: Argonne National Lab

“The research I proposed aims to, with the help of Argonne National Lab’s computational expertise, build a platform that models and simulates the performance of the atomic qubit array (AQuA) experiment in Prof. Saffman’s lab. This could help us to understand the effect of various technical problems, such as laser noise, in the experiment, and guide us in improving the gate fidelities. On the other hand, the platform could also be a useful tool in simulating and designing novel quantum gate protocols and quantum algorithms that can be performed on AQuA.”

a woman in a cleansuit works with qubit components in a yellow-hued research cleanroom
Abigail Shearrow
Abigail Shearrow, McDermott Group | Mentoring Partner: Google

“We are developing a new type of superconducting qubit that provides protection from noise and decoherence at the hardware level. Our near-term goals are to prepare quantum superposition states and to transfer them into the protected regime where we will look for extended energy relaxation and dephasing times. We will next implement protected gates, which we will characterize by doing interleaved randomized benchmarking.”