Canada’s National Quantum Strategy, released last year, identified quantum science as having “the potential to transform how people work and live.”  

Since the discovery and inception of quantum mechanics more than 100 years ago, this field has been disrupting our understanding of the universe and igniting new technologies. Without past advances in quantum information, many technologies used today would not exist, including lasers, GPS maps and hospital MRI machines. 

World Quantum Day is celebrated on April 14 each year, with the goal of celebrating the field’s successes and inspiring future possibilities. This date was chosen to recognize Plank’s constant, 4.14 x 10-15 eV s, which defines the quantum nature of energy and led to the development of quantum mechanics. 

At the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo, researchers follow their curiosity and explore their passions to advance theories and improve our understanding of the quantum world. Harnessing the cross-disciplinary nature of quantum information, IQC unites researchers from areas across Waterloo, inspiring new collaborations, and showcasing a solid foundation as leaders in the global quantum community. IQC has built an ecosystem of trust within Canada and is an international destination for quantum excellence, training more than 3,000 researchers in quantum information science and technology from around the world.

“Our researchers continue to push boundaries, routinely bringing advances in quantum theories to applications and commercialization,” says Dr. Norbert Lütkenhaus, executive director of IQC and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “We’ve built a community driven by bold, forward-thinking talent. We are leaders meeting the rising demand for quantum technologies and opportunities.” 

Quantum ideas are continuously emerging from IQC’s research labs and 40 per cent of faculty members are commercializing new innovations.  

One of the newest ventures from IQC’s researchers has been envisioned by Dr. Rajibul Islam and Dr. Crystal Senko, both IQC faculty members, and Dr. Roger Melko, an IQC affiliate member, who are all also professors in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. As the founding researchers of the not-for-profit organization, Open Quantum Design (OQD), the trio aims to democratize access to quantum computing technology. 

Islam, Senko and Melko are currently growing an ecosystem of partners to develop the world’s first, full-stack, open-source, trapped ion quantum computer. Trapped ions are currently being pursued as one method for quantum information storage in quantum bits, or qubits. In this method of creating qubits, different energy states in atoms or ions are used to store a zero or a one. This method offers the advantage of using identical, nature-made materials as qubits, so the researchers don’t have to fabricate them, and is one of multiple different methods currently being pursued for future quantum computers.  

Dr. Rajibul Islam testing out a laser device

Dr. Rajibul Islam, a faculty member at the Institute for Quantum Computing and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is seen testing a laser device.

“Waterloo has invested heavily in developing quantum computing hardware in the past few years. Talented graduate students, postdocs and undergraduates, including many co-op students from science and engineering contributed to some ambitious projects,” Islam says. “That, and the one-of-its kind intellectual property policy of Waterloo made it possible for us to take a huge leap in the development and democratization of quantum processors through the OQD foundation.” 

Islam will be discussing the process of creating an open-source quantum computer at IQC’s World Quantum Day public lecture, Open quantum computing, one atom at a time, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.