Chicago Quantum Exchange, IBM Q Network partner to advance quantum computing

Diana Anderson for the Chicago Quantum Exchange

Collaboration to accelerate joint research and help train tomorrow’s quantum engineers

University of Chicago Professor David Awschalom (second from left), an Illinois Physics alumnus, a senior scientist at Argonne, and the director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, works in his lab with postdoctoral trainees. Photo by Jean Lachat for UChicago
University of Chicago Professor David Awschalom (second from left), an Illinois Physics alumnus, a senior scientist at Argonne, and the director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, works in his lab with postdoctoral trainees. Photo by Jean Lachat for UChicago
The Chicago Quantum Exchange, a growing intellectual hub for the research and development of quantum technology, will join forces with the IBM Q Network to provide leaps forward in electronics, computers, sensors and “unhackable” networks.

CQE member institutions will work with IBM Q scientists and engineers through IBM Q’s academic partner program to explore the field of quantum computing, including investigations into materials, fabrication techniques, algorithms, and software and hardware development. A critical component of the partnership will be to enhance efforts to train tomorrow’s quantum workforce; the IBM Q Network will fund up to five positions for postdoctoral researchers to work closely with scientists across the CQE to advance quantum computing.

The Chicago Quantum Exchange is anchored at the University of Chicago. Member institutions include the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The combined resources of the member institutions create a powerful hub of more than 100 scientists and engineers—among the world’s largest collaborative teams for quantum research.

CQE researchers are developing hardware and software for a new generation of quantum computers, synthesizing and characterizing new materials with quantum properties, and probing the ways in which quantum computing and information processing can provide insights into dark matter and black holes.

“Collaborating with IBMs scientists and engineers will accelerate progress in the field of quantum information,” says David Awschalom, director of the CQE, the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at UChicago and a senior scientist at Argonne. “This rapidly developing field requires working across different academic disciplines and developing projects beyond institutional boundaries. Partnering with IBM Q will help us drive a broad range of joint activities and help train a new workforce of quantum scientists and engineers.”

The collaboration with IBM Q includes projects with Awschalom and other UChicago researchers to develop quantum machine architectures and applications ranging from quantum communication interfaces to new types of qubits—the basic unit of quantum information. Professor Fred Chong and his UChicago research team will deepen their existing collaboration with IBM Q to develop quantum software. Chong, the Seymour Goodman Professor of Computer Science and an Argonne senior scientist, is the lead investigator for the Enabling Practical-Scale Quantum Computing (EPiQC) project, a multi-institutional effort funded by the National Science Foundation’s Expeditions in Computing Program, which works to bring quantum computing within reach by co-developing new algorithms, software, and hardware, including optimizations for IBM’s superconducting quantum technology.

The partnership builds on existing collaborations between CQE member institutions and IBM Q, the company’s quantum division. This includes the participation of Argonne and Fermilab in the IBM Q Network, the world’s first community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions and research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for business and science. The two labs partner with the IBM Q Hub at Oak Ridge National Lab.

Building the nation’s future quantum workforce

In addition to accelerating discovery and innovation in the rapidly developing areas of quantum technology, the CQE aims to build the nation’s workforce in emerging quantum fields.

“The CQE institutions, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have identified quantum information science as a key strategic area, and we are committed to providing research and education opportunities for our students and postdocs to train them to contribute to this exciting and important field. This partnership and investment from IBM Q will help us in that mission,” notes Dale Van Harlingen, professor of physics and the associate executive director of the Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology center (IQUIST) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Through the CQE, IBM Q will provide funding for up to five postdoctoral positions over five years to investigate some of the most profound scientific and technological challenges in quantum information science. These postdoctoral researchers will research quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum sensing and quantum algorithms.

 “As the field of quantum information continues to expand, so will the demand for quantum engineers in industry, government and at universities,” comments University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “Increasing our collaboration with IBM Q and other partners in the Chicago Quantum Exchange will allow our trainees, faculty and their colleagues to contribute to important work in applied science and engineering with strong potential to benefit society.”

The postdocs will have access to all member institutions, including a wide breadth of tools and capabilities that make investigation of cutting-edge quantum science and technology possible.

The postdocs will work at member institutions that support their individual areas of research and will receive dual mentorship at both the institution where they are placed and another member institution or IBM Q. Individuals interested in applying for a postdoc position at the CQE can access the application on the CQE website.

The CQE is further developing a national workforce of quantum scientists and engineers through the Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network (QISE-Net), a program supported by the National Science Foundation and in partnership with Harvard University. QISE-Net enables students to conduct their doctoral research jointly with industry or a national laboratory, translating ideas into research results.

Recent News

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Condensed Matter Experiment
  • Condensed Matter Theory

One of the greatest mysteries in condensed matter physics is the exact relationship between charge order and superconductivity in cuprate superconductors. In superconductors, electrons move freely through the material—there is zero resistance when it’s cooled below its critical temperature. However, the cuprates simultaneously exhibit superconductivity and charge order in patterns of alternating stripes. This is paradoxical in that charge order describes areas of confined electrons. How can superconductivity and charge order coexist?  

Now researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, collaborating with scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have shed new light on how these disparate states can exist adjacent to one another. Illinois Physics post-doctoral researcher Matteo Mitrano, Professor Peter Abbamonte, and their team applied a new x-ray scattering technique, time-resolved resonant soft x-ray scattering, taking advantage of the state-of-the-art equipment at SLAC. This method enabled the scientists to probe the striped charge order phase with an unprecedented energy resolution. This is the first time this has been done at an energy scale relevant to superconductivity.

  • Alumni News
  • In the Media

Will Hubin was one of those kids whose wallpaper and bed sheets were covered in airplanes and who loved building model airplanes. By the time he took his first flight in the late 1940s, he was hooked.

Now, he shares his passion for planes with children by taking them for their first flight, at no charge, in his four-seat 2008 Diamond DA-40 aircraft through the local Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program.

“It’s a lot of fun and pretty rewarding. Anyone who loves flying likes to introduce others to it. It’s true of anything, any hobbyist. Some will talk constantly but they’re ecstatic,” said Hubin, a retired Kent State University physics professor.

Hubin learned to fly in 1962 when he was earning a doctorate in physics at the University of Illinois and has been flying ever since, adding commercial, instrument, instructor, multi-engine and seaplane ratings.

  • Research
  • Theoretical Biological Physics
  • Biological Physics
  • Biophysics

While watching the production of porous membranes used for DNA sorting and sequencing, University of Illinois researchers wondered how tiny steplike defects formed during fabrication could be used to improve molecule transport. They found that the defects – formed by overlapping layers of membrane – make a big difference in how molecules move along a membrane surface. Instead of trying to fix these flaws, the team set out to use them to help direct molecules into the membrane pores.

Their findings are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Nanopore membranes have generated interest in biomedical research because they help researchers investigate individual molecules – atom by atom – by pulling them through pores for physical and chemical characterization. This technology could ultimately lead to devices that can quickly sequence DNA, RNA or proteins for personalized medicine.

  • In Memoriam

We are saddened to report that John Robert Schrieffer, Nobel laureate and alumnus of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, passed away on July 27, 2019, in Tallahassee, Florida. He was 88 years old.

Schrieffer was the “S” in the famous BCS theory of superconductivity, one of the towering achievements of 20th century theoretical physics, which he co-developed with his Ph.D advisor Professor John Bardeen and postdoctoral colleague Dr. Leon N. Cooper. At the time that Schrieffer began working with Bardeen and Cooper, superconductivity was regarded as one of the major challenges in physics. Since the discovery of the hallmark feature of superconductivity in 1911—the zero resistance apparently experienced by a current in a metal at temperatures near absolute zero—a long list of famous theoretical physicists had attempted to understand the phenomenon, including Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Richard Feynman, Lev Landau, Felix Bloch, Werner Heisenberg and John Bardeen himself (who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his co-invention of the transistor at around the time that Schrieffer began working with him in 1956).