A passion for discovery

NA YOUNG KIM took the road less travelled.

She spent almost two years working on product development for Apple Inc., but her passion for discovery led her back to academia. Kim returned to research at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) in 2016. She heads the Quantum Innovation (QuIN) laboratory, which aims to build large-scale quantum processors based on novel materials and advanced technologies.

Currently, Kim and her team are on track to develop semiconductor-based quantum machines. “Machine is a general term,” noted Kim. “A quantum machine could be a device, system, or architecture. The details are in the discovery.”

Key materials

Kim is taking a ground-up approach and starting with materials. Historically, stone, iron and other metals have played a significant role in developing technology. Kim believes that materials will once again be revolutionary in the quantum age.

Materials development is a new area for trained physicist Kim. And she’s boldly expanded her understanding of materials science, chemistry and engineering to steer her research forward. In fact, she’s also an Associate Professor in the University of Waterloo’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Superior solid-state circuits

Kim and the QuIN team are designing an integrated solid-state circuit with superior optical, mechanical and thermal performance compared to current technology. Thanks to quantum physics, the enhanced capability of the circuit could play a key role in bridging quantum and classical technology. “A quantum computer likely won’t replace the classical computers we use today, but will serve complementary purposes,” said Kim.

Classical and quantum technologies may work together to solve problems. A quantum simulator could be engineered to address issues in condensed matter physics. Or to simulate chemical reactions, such as molecule bonding for the design and delivery of medical drugs.

New perspectives

Kim takes a holistic approach to research. She plans her research route carefully, but knows it’s important to stay open-minded about the direction it takes. “Research and discovery is a cycle. The best engineering will provide new perspectives for exploring the fundamental aspects of quantum information science.”

Science and technology will emerge together and propel quantum information research forward on the adventurous path to discovery.