Quantum technology capital: UK Superconducting Quantum Technologies

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Physics


Superconducting Quantum Technology (SuQT) is regarded across the world as one of the key technologies for the possible construction of a quantum computer. Based on fabrication techniques used in semi-conductor processing, the creation of electrical circuits that operate according to the laws of quantum physics is astonishing in that the devices are the first man made objects (as opposed to natural entities such as atoms, electrons and photons) to display quantum effects. They are all the more fantastic because of their ability to be modified by design or construction in ways that naturally quantum objects cannot. As quantum electrical (qubit) circuits, they hold the potential to solve all of the problems of addressability, controllability, controlled qubit coupling and readout that many other architectures based on natural quantum objects find difficult. This is the reason that major corporations such as Google, IBM and Raytheon are now beginning to provide market pull in providing funds to progress this field. Superconducting quantum devices pave the way not only for the development of quantum computing and fast algorithms for searching, information security and quantum simulation, but also open the door to a huge array of possible new sensing elements including those based on artificial atoms and quantum optics, but with microwaves, where the multi billion dollar communication industry operates.

In order to enable the study and development of this new field we request funds for a state-of-the-art electron beam lithography (EBL) system that will enable the exploration and exploitation of a new generation of SuQT including quantum meta-materials, coherent quantum phase slip (with consequent potential for a redefinition of the unit of electrical current, the Ampere), microwave quantum optics and quantum limited amplification as well as further development of multi-qubit devices.

As world leaders in the field we will build on our strong collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory and initiate a further collaboration with JEOL, the world-market leaders in EBL systems to form a consortium that can offer SuQT nanofabrication facilities to UK academia free of access charges for at least five years. We will collaborate strongly with another world leader in SuQT, Prof Yuri Pashkin (Lancaster University). We were the first group in the UK to successfully establish a superconducting qubit foundry, we will build on our state-of-the-art capability, supported by an approximately £20M investment by Royal Holloway in a new Department of Electronic Engineering, for which the EBL will underpin future research and providing a streamlined route from science to technology.

Our aim is to establish the UK as a world leader in superconducting quantum technology.

Planned Impact

Superconducting quantum technologies are recognised world-wide to provide a compelling route to new disruptive technologies. The primary impact may well be the development of operational multi-qubit devices and quantum computing but, as we make clear in the Case for Support, there is broad potential for very strong impacts in sensing and metrology.

With JEOL and NPL we will establish a Centre of Excellence. The superior specification of the electron beam lithography (EBL) system will drive device innovation exploiting advanced materials, with <10nm features. It will also encourage expanded industrial engagement, managed by the Industrial Liaison Committee. JEOL plan to derive product related IP from our endeavours at the cutting edge of their EBL system and in return will support industrial engagement with the Centre for Superconducting Quantum Technologies at RH.

Specific examples of technology and sensor impact include pushing the boundaries of EBL in hybrid systems such as the HyQUID; closing the quantum electrical triangle through a realisation of the Ampere using Coherent Quantum Phase Slip (CQPS) devices; scanning probe charge detection with high resolution based on CQPS; superconducting amplifiers beyond the quantum limit; quantum coherent conversion of optical to microwave photon for quantum encrypted networks; on-demand microwave photon sources and sources of entangled microwave photons based on superconducting qubits; and more.

Beneficiaries are thus: manufacturers of devices of novel functionality based on new materials or new concepts; the scientific instruments industry, including cryogenic and superconducting technologies industries; SMEs in emerging technology areas and National Measurement Institutes.

Through the new Department of Electronic Engineering at RH we will provide a streamlined route from physics through to engineering and exploitation. One area of interest to our investor (CDC Gulf) is the combination of quantum limited sensing with bio-electronics sensing. The HyQUID is already the subject of a technology license agreement and is to be installed in a protype MEG medical imaging machine.

Longer term impact is envisaged through applications of nano-devices based on exotic quantum materials, quantum meta-materials, high kinetic inductance materials and materials for quantum phase slip, exploiting our expertise across nanoscale fabrication and superconducting materials development, leading to new products.

Impact on NPL: The enhanced capability is essential to fully realize our potential, through the successful strategic partnership, formally established in 2011. See their Letter of Support. It will help leverage further collaboration and impact through the European Metrology Research Programme (now EMPIR) and through NPL's commercial side, for example in providing portable and convenient calibration standards for electromagnetic units.

People: A key impact is through the rigorous training of highly skilled manpower, demonstrated by our track record. This requires the best equipment, the subject of this proposal, coupled to our high level of expertise, experience and innovative approaches.


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Antonov I (2020) Superconducting 'twin' qubit in Physical Review B

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Bolgar AN (2018) Quantum Regime of a Two-Dimensional Phonon Cavity. in Physical review letters

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De Graaf S (2018) Charge quantum interference device in Nature Physics

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Hegedüs M (2020) Detection of black body radiation using a compact terahertz imager in Applied Physics Letters

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Hönigl-Decrinis T (2018) Mixing of coherent waves in a single three-level artificial atom in Physical Review A

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Peltonen JT (2018) Hybrid rf SQUID qubit based on high kinetic inductance. in Scientific reports

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Peng ZH (2016) Tuneable on-demand single-photon source in the microwave range. in Nature communications

Description RHUL internal funding
Amount £3,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2019