Inaugural Chicago Quantum Summit is underway

Siv Schwink

Professor Brian DeMarco
Professor Brian DeMarco
Professor Dale Van Harlingen
Professor Dale Van Harlingen
Professor Paul Kwiat
Professor Paul Kwiat
A two-day summit in Chicago taking place November 8 and 9 has brought together leading experts in quantum information science to advance U.S. efforts in what’s been called the next technological “space race”—and to position Illinois at the forefront of that race. The inaugural Chicago Quantum Summit, hosted by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, includes high-level representation from Microsoft, IBM, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently joined the Chicago Quantum Exchange as a core member, making it one of the largest quantum information science (QIS) collaborations in the world. The exchange was formed last year as an alliance between the University of Chicago and the two Illinois-based national laboratories, Argonne and Fermilab.

Representing the U of I at the summit are physics professors Brian DeMarco, Paul Kwiat, and Dale Van Harlingen, who are key players in the planned Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST) on the U of I campus. The U of I news bureau announced last week the university’s $15-million commitment to the new center, which will form a collaboration of physicists, engineers, and computer scientists to develop new algorithms, materials, and devices to advance QIS.

DeMarco sums up the growing wave of excitement over this emerging field: “The future of many activities central to human life, including transportation, medicine, and manufacturing, will be transformed by improvements in computing, networking, and sensing over the next century. However, computers, networks, and devices based on conventional technology are inherently limited in their ability to tackle some of the most important problems we will face.

“Quantum computers and networks leverage the physics of quantum mechanics to tackle these problems at a magnitude much larger than any future supercomputer. For example, a large-scale quantum computer could determine the properties of chemical bonds key to new pharmaceuticals for complexes larger than any supercomputer could ever deal with. Beyond medicine, this may also be a route to optimizing artificial photosynthesis for carbon management, which may be central to preventing disaster from climate change.”

At the summit, DeMarco is looking forward to learning what other members in the exchange are interested in accomplishing and to discussing just how the new partnership will work.

“These are exciting times for QIS in Illinois,” he comments. “Now that we’ve announced and initiated IQUIST, the U of I has the opportunity to play an even larger role in the QIS revolution. And, joining the Chicago Quantum Exchange provides us natural and strong partners close to home. It will be exciting to see what Argonne, Fermilab, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois can do together! Each has unique strengths and somewhat different perspectives. Whatever emerges from the convergence of these different players will be fantastic and new.”

Van Harlingen is a panelist at the summit. He comments, “The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has world-class programs in physics, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science. And we have a demonstrated record of solving big problems through a broad interdisciplinary research and education approach—what we in physics like to call 'the Urbana style' and for which we are well-known and highly respected. We are uniquely equipped to answer the call for new innovations in QIS and to train a strong future QIS workforce.”

Kwiat has been working in the field for the last couple of decades and he is happy to see the U.S. ready to invest the kind of resources into QIS research that Europe, China, and Japan are investing.

“When the first research in QIS started 25 or 30 years ago, there were probably a handful of best ideas that scientists were pursuing,” Kwiat recalls. “The field has evolved, and there are now many promising avenues of research to pursue. There is a lot of excitement over that—an expectation of something unexpected coming out of these efforts. Take for example the idea of a quantum network, which would have several potential applications, not only for encrypted communications. It’s been proposed that we could someday use a quantum network as a telescope, with each node acting as an eye on the sky. The combined effect would be a telescope equivalent to the size of the Earth. With that kind of resolution and magnification, we could see things in deep space far surpassing what we ever believed possible before.”

Recent News

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There have been accusations for years that the Major League ball is “juiced,” thus accounting for the increasing power numbers.

MLB officials have categorically denied that, and last year, commissioned a study of the baseball and how it’s produced.

In the landmark 85-page independent report replete with color graphs, algorithms and hypotheses, a group of 10 highly-rated professors and scientists chaired by Alan Nathan determined that the ball is not livelier or “juiced.” Nathan is a professor emeritus of physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

The surge in home runs “seems, instead, to have arisen from a decrease in the ball’s drag properties, which cause it to carry further than previously, given the same set of initial conditions – exit velocity, launch and spray angle, and spin. So, there is indirect evidence that the ball has changed, but we don’t yet know how,” wrote Leonard Mlodinow, in the report’s eight-page executive summary.

  • In the Media

Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Kandice Tanner went to a school where she was one of only a dozen girls among 1200 pupils. She had switched from an all-girl school to avoid the distractions of socializing and to take the more advanced math classes offered at the boys’ school. “Being submerged in an all-male environment early on was beneficial to me,” Tanner says. “I felt comfortable with guys, and more important, I knew I could hold my own in a male-dominated environment.”

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Illinois Physics Professor Philip Phillips and Math Professor Gabriele La Nave have theorized a new kind of electromagnetism far beyond anything conceivable in classical electromagnetism today, a conjecture that would upend our current understanding of the physical world, from the propagation of light to the quantization of charge. Their revolutionary new theory, which Phillips has dubbed “fractional electromagnetism,” would also solve an intriguing problem that has baffled physicists for decades, elucidating emergent behavior in the “strange metal” of the cuprate superconductors.

This research is published in an upcoming colloquium paper in Reviews of Modern Physics (arXiv:1904.01023v1).

  • Accolades
  • Student News

The BPS Art of Science Image Contest took place again this year, during the 63rd Annual Meeting in Baltimore. The image that won first place was submitted by Angela Barragan, PhD Candidate at the Beckman Institute UIUC. Barragan took some time to provide information about the image and the science it represents.