Grand Opening of the Yale Quantum Institute

October 23, 2015

Quantum information science, hailed as one of the most exciting scientific fields of the 21st century, now has a home at Yale.

The Yale Quantum Institute, a state-of-the-art research hub aimed at revolutionizing the way digital information is stored, processed, and safeguarded, will open on Friday, Oct. 23 with a formal ribbon cutting and a roster of events.

The institute brings together more than 120 researchers and staff from around the university, including leading physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers. Their work already has produced major advances in the study of quantum information science, increasing our understanding of the quantum world and making Yale an undisputed leader in the field, notes the institute’s director, Robert Schoelkopf.

“In order to do cutting edge quantum information science, you need new kinds of collaboration among engineers, physicists, computer scientists, materials scientists, and a host of other disciplines,” said Schoelkopf, who is also Sterling Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale. “The institute will foster those collaborations, and bring world leaders in this field here to ensure that New Haven remains an intellectual hub for quantum information science, and of quantum science more generally.”

Much attention has centered around the race to build the first quantum computer, yet quantum information science actually peers into the fundamental laws governing matter and data at the most basic level. The discipline’s underpinnings harken back to the theoretical work of Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman, and its future has the potential to transform computational possibilities across the spectrum of human endeavor.

“Even in an era of technological leaps, the possibilities for quantum science inspire awe,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “The research taking place on our campus is blazing a path toward great discovery, and the opening of the Yale Quantum Institute is a physical manifestation of that bold spirit.”

Yale Quantum Institute researchers have an array of equipment at the disposal, including this dilution refrigerator for experiments on quantum circuits. (Photo by Michael S. Helfenbein)

Researchers have long sought a viable path toward reliable quantum computing. Part of the challenge has been finding a way to stabilize bits of data, called qubits, that exist in a quantum state. Computers historically have stored data in a classic state, either “1” or “0.” In a quantum state, data exists as “1” and “0” simultaneously.

Unfortunately, qubits are notoriously susceptible to changes in their environment; they are ready in an instant to leave their quantum state and settle into a classic state of 0 or 1. Qubits are so sensitive, in fact, that even looking to see if they’ve changed can cause a reaction.

Yale’s efforts have brought researchers tantalizingly close to solving the most intractable challenges presented by quantum computing. Yale physicists Schoelkopf, Michel Devoret, and Steven Girvin have made a series of quantum superconducting breakthroughs in recent years, directed at creating electronic devices with a quantum version of the integrated circuit.

Such devices have the potential to perform vastly superior levels of computation. They would pave the way for new digital encryption technology, better sensors, and transformative possibilities for biological, chemical, and medical research.

“One of the most surprising discoveries in physics during the last half century is the demonstration that the quantum laws do not simply limit the possibilities for human knowledge, but also enable revolutionary approaches for the storage, transmission, and processing of information,” said A. Douglas Stone, the institute’s deputy director and the Carl A. Morse Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale. “The Yale quantum information group is the acknowledged leader in solid state quantum computing. Their superconducting ‘artificial atoms’ work in many respects better than real atoms for storing and processing quantum bits.”

Yale’s success in quantum information science already covers a wide range of inquiry, from quantum theory to experimental quantum mechanics. Those successes include:

  • The development and understanding of quantum networks that use light particles
  • The demonstration of new, topological states of matter
  • The invention of a novel, “speckle-free” laser for medical imaging

Stone and Schoelkopf, center, work with researchers at the Yale Quantum Institute. (Photo by Michael S. Helfenbein)

The Yale Quantum Institute will occupy one floor of a building on Hillhouse Avenue, with space for seminars, events, and classes. Ongoing research will continue in laboratories across campus, including the Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center.

The launch event will begin at 3 p.m. with a welcome and introductory remarks by Stone, followed by a discussion of “Quantum Science: The Coming of the New Information Age,” moderated by National Public Radio science reporter Joe Palca. Participants will include Ray LaFlamme, co-founder and director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo; and Schoelkopf.

The event will conclude with remarks from Salovey and Girvin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics and deputy provost for science and technology at Yale.

“A wonderful feature of this institute is the opportunity to welcome a mix of physicists, engineers, and mathematicians from all over the world for an extended period of time,” said Devoret, the Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale. “This is fundamental to the progress of quantum information science.”

A digital media kit, featuring images of the institute, is available online.

By Jim Shelton, Yale News.