UChicago, Fermi and Argonne Launch Chicago Quantum Exchange

By John Russell

June 26, 2017

While many of us were preoccupied with ISC 2017 last week, the launch of the Chicago Quantum Exchange went largely unnoticed. So what is such a thing? It is a collaboration between the University of Chicago, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory to “facilitate the exploration of quantum information and the development of new applications with the potential to dramatically improve technology for communication, computing and sensing.”

The new hub will be within the Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME) at UChicago. Quantum mechanics, of course, governs the behavior of matter at the atomic and subatomic levels in exotic and unfamiliar ways compared to the classical physics used to understand the movements of everyday objects. The engineering of quantum phenomena could lead to new classes of devices and computing capabilities, permitting novel approaches to solving problems that cannot be addressed using existing technology.

Lately, it seems work on quantum computing has ratcheted up considerably with IBM, Google, D-Wave, and Microsoft leading the charge. The Chicago Quantum Exchange seems to be a more holistic endeavor to advance the entire “quantum” research ecosystem and industry.

“The combination of the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, working together as the Chicago Quantum Exchange, is unique in the domain of quantum information science,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean and Founding Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering and Argonne’s deputy laboratory director for science. “The CQE’s capabilities will span the range of quantum information, from basic solid state experimental and theoretical physics, to device design and fabrication, to algorithm and software development. CQE aims to integrate and exploit these capabilities to create a quantum information technology ecosystem.”

According to the official announcement, the CQE collaboration will benefit from UChicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which supports the creation of innovative businesses connected to UChicago and Chicago’s South Side. The CQE will have a strong connection with a major Hyde Park innovation project that was announced recently as the second phase of the Harper Court development on the north side of 53rd Street, and will include an expansion of Polsky Center activities. This project will enable the transition from laboratory discoveries to societal applications through industrial collaborations and startup initiatives.

Companies large and small are positioning themselves to make a far-reaching impact with this new quantum technology. Alumni of IME’s quantum engineering PhD program have been recruited to work for many of these companies. The creation of CQE will allow for new linkages and collaborations with industry, governmental agencies and other academic institutions, as well as support from the Polsky Center for new startup ventures.

IME’s quantum engineering program is already training a new workforce of “quantum engineers” to meet the need of industry, government laboratories, and universities. The program now consists of eight faculty members and more than 100 postdoctoral scientists and doctoral students. Approximately 20 faculty members from UChicago’s Physical Sciences Division also pursue quantum research.

CLARIFICATION (6-30-17):
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the Department of Department of Energy launched the Chicago Quantum Exchange. Jon Bashor, LBNL Computing Sciences Communications Manager, offered the following clarification: “While Fermilab and Argonne are DOE labs, DOE has not yet invested in quantum computing. Argonne’s investments are in nanotechnology through DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences (which is not interested in quantum computing). U. Chicago’s expertise has been developed through non-DOE funds. In fact, most national labs have invested in quantum information science through local Laboratory Directed Research and Development programs, or perhaps work for others, but there have been none under DOE-sponsored calls. If anyone can claim to launch DOE quantum research, it will be the winners of the QAT and Testbed Pathfinder calls which are expected to be announced later this year.”

Link to University of Chicago article: https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2017/06/20/chicago-quantum-exchange-create-technologically-transformative-ecosystem

Feature image: Courtesy of Nicholas Brawand

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