Seed fund continues to support new diverse quantum projects

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Two projects most recently supported by the Quantum Quest Seed Fund (QQSF) aim to make quantum concepts more easily understood. The goal of one project is to explain how differences in cultural background influence perception and acceptance to the basic principles of quantum physics, while the other aims to use interactive digital storytelling to advance quantum literacy.

Awarded by Transformative Quantum Technologies (TQT), the fund encourages new ideas and applications for quantum technologies. QQSF uncovers opportunities to researchers from diverse fields that don’t typically work with quantum devices – this time, reaching the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo. To date, 30 projects have been awarded, and over $2.8 million in funding distributed.

Linking one's culture to their perception and acceptance of quantum physics

As quantum technologies become increasingly integrated into human lives, exposure to new concepts can challenge people’s thoughts about physical reality, because quantum concepts can seem counterintuitive. However, they may not be equally counterintuitive to people from all cultural backgrounds because culture shapes the way people make sense of the world.

Igor Grossmann in collaboration with Richard Eibach, both associate professors in the psychology department, seek to explain how cultural differences in folk epistemologies influence one’s receptivity to these novel quantum concepts. If the hypothesized effects are obtained, they may suggest that the integration of quantum technologies into societies not only transforms the economy but also drives constructive cultural change.

Using interactive digitial storytelling to advance quantum literacy 

Augmented reality (AR) and extended reality (XR) are digital experiences of interaction with virtually rendered 2D and 3D objects. AR and XR environments have become increasingly popular due to their approach of experimental learning. To that effect, this way of storytelling has been adopted as a unique method of communicating complex ideas.

A roadblock to the broader adoption of quantum technologies is its seemingly abstract concepts can make it difficult to understand, especially through scientific language. Lai-Tze Fan, assistant professor in the department of english language and literature department, has received funding to use digital storytelling to better communicate quantum and its benefits. This project includes the development of AR and XR creations that use 3D versions of foundational quantum phenomena, and then making them open-source online resources to maximize reach to global audiences. Fan is working in collaboration with Caitlin Fisher in the film department at York University, and Victoria McArthur in the journalism and communication department at Carleton University.

Quantum Quest Awardees

Two projects have received a total of $69,051 in seed funding from cycle eight.

Cycle 8

  • Folk Understanding of Quantum Physics 
    • Igor Grossman, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, in collaboration with Richard Eibach, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology
  • Using Interactive Digital Storytelling to Represent Transformative Quantum Technologies in Augmented/Extended Reality Environments 
    • Lai-Tze Fan, Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, in collaboration with Caitlin Fisher, Associate Professor in the Department of Film at York University, and Victoria McArthur, Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University

See past awardees:

Demonstrated impact

Through its four years of funding, the QQSF support has spurred innovation in the quantum realm at the University of Waterloo. One of several breakthroughs enabled by TQT’s funding include the development of a compact and efficient terahertz light source. Terahertz radiation holds important applications like enhancing detection capabilities to see through packaging and improving characterization methods for drugs, proteins and bacteria. Since terahertz light is particularly difficult to produce and existing sources are too bulky and power-hungry for widespread application, the demonstration of a powerful and portable Terahertz Quantum Cascade Laser has been made. Thanks to awardee Zbig Wasilweski, associate faculty member at IQC, this innovation in terahertz technology paves the way to its broad deployment.

The QQSF continues to expand the quantum community at the University of Waterloo with 16 awards supporting faculty outside of IQC.

Two other seed projects awarded to Na Young Kim, associate professor and faculty member at IQC, prove QQSF’s impact on quantum advancements. 

Over the last two decades, superconducting quantum computing architecture has seen drastic improvements, but unknown noise sources still limit the coherence time of superconducting qubits. In this project, gate-controlled Josephson-Junctions (JJs) composed of carbon nanotube (CNT) thin films are being built to act as a promising superconducting qubit for quantum computers. The benefits of this approach include superb interface engineering capability, small integration footprint, and high-temperature operation – expecting to achieve superior performance relative to the current state-of-the-art JJs.

Kim’s other project aims to enable new opportunities for photonic quantum computation through integrated quantum photonic devices on a chip. 2D materials are extremely thin and flexible, and have emerged as a host for a range of exciting new quantum phenomena, particularly when different 2D materials are stacked together. Through collaborations, Na Young plans to address the challenges of stacking more than two layers of 2D materials. This will solidify knowledge of physical and chemical properties of stackable heterostructures and will propose novel multifunctional quantum devices systems.

TQT is funded in part thanks to the Canada First Excellence Research Fund (CFREF).

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