Roadmap charts promising course for quantum nanotechnologies

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

More than sixty years after Richard Feynman delivered a seminal lecture that foreshadowed the development of nanotechnologies, Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) and Department of Chemistry faculty member Jonathan Baugh and University of New South Wales Sydney faculty member Arne Laucht served as co-editors leading the publication of a roadmap that surveys major developments in the field of quantum nanotechnologies and explores exciting avenues for further development that will help usher in the next quantum revolution.

Quantum nanotechnologies are structures or devices at the nanoscale—on the order of one billionth of a metre—that can exploit quantum mechanical effects. For example, you can confine a single electron in a nanostructure called a quantum dot and use the electron’s spin to represent a qubit for quantum computing.

“It’s exciting because we’re getting to the point where we can detect spins and charges on very short time scales and with high fidelities, and that is going to be a big part of building a quantum computer and many other quantum technologies that depend on these solid-state devices,” said Baugh, who is also a member of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN).

As co-editors, Baugh and Laucht determined a list of topics to cover and reached out to experts in each area to write sections of the roadmap. All in all, nearly 30 researchers from 11 countries contributed to the piece detailing quantum nanotechnologies in six areas: quantum metrology, quantum light sources, quantum computing with spins, nano- and opto-mechanics, low-dimensional systems, and molecular devices.

From this small subset of quantum nanotechnologies, a dizzying array of potential applications arise.

Researchers could use a nanoscale pump that generates single electrons to refine the definition of the ampere or to create dynamic quantum dots for computing. Others—like IQC and chemistry department faculty member Adam Wei Tsen, also an author on this paper—could use two-dimensional materials to create quantum-based computer memory.

“At IQC, even though ‘computing’ is in our name, we recognize that sensing, communications and quantum materials are also all important and necessary areas of research for developing the quantum technologies of the future,” said Baugh.

Both quantum information science and nanotechnology are relatively young fields that have been rapidly growing. The roadmap charts the intersection of these fields and reveals a synergy that is greater than the sum of its parts.

“Advances in nanotechnology are enabling quantum technologies that you wouldn’t have otherwise, and vice versa,” said Baugh.

This synergy is represented at the University of Waterloo, where IQC and WIN share facilities and where faculty like Baugh, Tsen, Raffi Budakian, Adrian Lupascu, Guo-Xing Miao and Na Young Kim are members of both institutes.

“In a way, Feynman is the grandfather of both nanotechnology and quantum computing because of two visionary lectures he gave, and it is serendipitous that these two areas have come together in the past couple of decades,” said Baugh. “You see developments now that 10 or 20 years ago we couldn’t do at all. You could barely imagine it. That being said, there is still a lot more progress to be made.”

From developing nano-scale medical imaging to finding the next silicon, research at the intersection of quantum information and nanotechnology is a fertile field for breakthroughs in fundamental research and the development of new devices. By continuing to study the incredibly small, researchers at IQC and around the world could have an enormous impact.

Roadmap on quantum nanotechnologies was published in Nanotechnology on February 4, 2021.

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