EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Controlled Quantum Dynamics

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Physics


Recently, an influential American business magazine, Forbes, chose Quantum Engineering as one of its top 10 majors (degree programmes) for 2022. According to Forbes magazine (September 2012): "a need is going to arise for specialists capable of taking advantage of quantum mechanical effects in electronics and other products." We propose to renew the CDT in Controlled Quantum Dynamics (CQD) to continue its success in training students to develop quantum technologies in a collaborative manner between experiment and theory and across disciplines.
With the ever growing demand for compactness, controllability and accuracy, the size of opto-electronic devices in particular, and electronic devices in general, is approaching the realm where only fully quantum mechanical theory can explain the fluctuations in (and limitations of) these devices. Pushing the frontiers of the 'very small' and 'very fast' looks set to bring about a revolution in our understanding of many fundamental processes in e.g. physics, chemistry and even biology with widespread applications. Although the fundamental basis of quantum theory remains intact, more recent theoretical and experimental developments have led researchers to use the laws of quantum mechanics in new and exciting ways - allowing the manipulation of matter on the atomic scale for hitherto undreamt of applications. This field not only holds the promise of addressing the issue of quantum fluctuations but of turning the quantum behaviour of nano- structures to our advantage. Indeed, the continued development of high-technology is crucial and we are convinced that our proposed CDT can play an important role. When a new field emerges a key challenge in meeting the current and future demands of industry is appropriate training, which is what we propose to achieve in this CDT.
The UK plays a leading role in the theory and experimental development of CQD and Imperial College is a centre of excellence within this context. The team involved in the proposed CDT covers a wide range of key activities from theory to experiment. Collectively we have an outstanding track record in research, training of postgraduate students and teaching.
The aim of the proposed CDT is to provide a coherent training environment bringing together PhD students from a wide variety of backgrounds and giving them an appreciation of experiment and theory of related fields under the umbrella of CQD. Students graduating from our programme will subsequently find themselves in high-demand both by industry and academia. The proposed CDT addresses the EPSRC strategic area 'Quantum Information Processing and Quantum Optics" and one of the priority areas of the CDT call, "Towards Quantum Technologies".
The excellence of our doctoral training has been recognised by the award of a highly competitive EU Innovative Doctoral Programme (IDP) in Frontiers of Quantum Technology, which will start in October 2013 running for four years with the budget around 3.8 million euros. The new CDT will closely work with the IDP to maximise synergy. It is clear that other high-profile activities within the general area of CQD are being undertaken in a range of other UK universities and within Imperial College. A key aim of our DTC is inclusivity. We operate a model whereby academics from outside of Imperial College can act as co-supervisors for PhD students on collaborative projects whereby the student spends part of the PhD at the partner institution whilst remaining closely tied to Imperial College and the student cohort. Many of the CDT activities including lectures and summer schools will be open to other PhD students within the UK. Outreach and transferable skills courses will be emphasised to provide a set of outreach classes and to organise various outreach activities including the CDT in CQD Quantum Show to the general public and CDT Festivals and to participate in Imperial's Science Festivals.

Planned Impact

GENERAL PUBLIC: Through a variety of outreach activities such as an annual 'Quantum Show' organised by the existing CDT in CQD, we have found there to be a real thirst on the part of the general public for an understanding of quantum science and technology. Other outreach activities include the provision of talks to schools and teacher training workshops. Imperial College Physics also has an artist in residence who is heavily involved in highly novel outreach activities. We will continue to influence the general public by engagement at a variety of science festivals. POLICY: Some of our academic members are involved in high-level government science panels through which we influence the science and technology capability of the nation. STUDENTS: The rapid developments over the last decade or so in experimental quantum physics that allow for the controlled preparation, manipulation and interrogation of small numbers of individual quantum systems, for example in Bose-Einstein condensates, optical lattices or ion traps, are not yet systematically reflected in undergraduate teaching. The CDT in CQD offers PhD students a cohesive and structured environment through which they can learn the foundational, unifying principles and applications of advanced quantum mechanics in a targeted, non-subject specific manner. This empowers them to tackle myriad quantum related challenges in both academia and industry. We are certain that the training they receive will allow them to succeed in an increasingly international environment when applying both for postdoctoral appointments and industrial positions. UNIVERSITIES: UK universities currently hold an internationally leading position in several areas in the theory and experiment of controlled quantum dynamics. In order to maintain this leadership highly qualified postdocs are required that are fluent in the ideas and principles of controlled quantum dynamics and are able to drive the development of the field with innovative ideas crossing the boundaries between disciplines and between experiment and theory. INDUSTRY: Researchers with skills in a number of branches of CQD are already employed by both major international companies such as NTT, Toshiba, Oxford Instruments and BT, and by smaller companies such as IdQuantique or MagiQ Research Labs. Researchers are also highly sought after by governmental organizations and research labs such as NPL, GCHQ, NIST or PTB. As an example of a truly quantum-based technology, cryptographic systems whose security is guaranteed by quantum mechanics were invented 20 years ago by scientists working in fundamental research. At the time these systems looked like science fiction but now they constitute a real-world technology. Quantum simulation and computation look to be set on a similar course. When the CDT in CQD started just 4 years ago, big question marks hung over a variety of key hurdles in this grand challenge. Many of these key problems have since been overcome including the development, within this time frame, of genuinely useful ('fault-tolerant') quantum gates. The fundamental challenge has now moved on to scaling devices up to larger numbers of quantum bits with a variety of scalable architectures now under development. Real-world quantum simulators and quantum computers now increasingly look to be within our grasp. The development of the ideas of quantum simulation over the last few years looks particularly exciting. The ability to use one exquisitely well controlled quantum system to explore the behaviour of other quantum systems of interest to industry (such as high Tc superconductors) could lead to a genuine revolution in quantum technologies. These more recent developments add to existing work on miniaturized clocks, interferometers, accelerometers, magnetometers and other sensors based on quantum technologies which are already having an impact on e.g. navigation, building, oil and mineral exploration and telecommunications.


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