Quantum Science: The Next Frontier

Technion Professor Gadi Eisenstein, Director of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute

The technological revolution of the last several decades has brought about amazing advances in the way we live our lives. But now we have to step up the game. With the ever-increasing energy needs required to run the Internet, and cybersecurity becoming a ubiquitous threat, the global science community is asking, “what new technology will further the path of unprecedented progress?”

The answer lies in quantum technology.

Applications of quantum mechanics are leading to practical devices for computing, communication and sensing, and imaging devices. These applications are important not only for the development of new products, but also for the critical role quantum technology can play in Israel’s national economy and security.

What is Quantum?

What is a “quantum” and why is it important? The word “quantum” comes from the Latin “quantus,” meaning “how much?” In physics, a quantum is the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction. When used in physics, the term “quantum mechanics” refers to the fundamental framework for understanding and describing nature at the smallest scale.

Quantum physics was conceived in the early 1900s. It became the main thrust of physics and chemistry research for close to 100 years, but remained mainly theoretical. In the late 20th century, physicists and engineers mastered the art of nanotechnology, which enables the fabrication of very small entities. It was suddenly possible to apply quantum theory to real-world electronics and optoelectronics components to serve in computers sensors, as well as imaging and communication systems.

How Will Quantum Change the World?

  • Communications – Using “single photon emitters” and “single photon detectors,” quantum technology can help devise secure (un-hackable) communication channels to thwart cyber attacks that can disrupt a nation’s infrastructure.
  • Computing – Combining a new class of quantum devices and computer science, quantum technology is starting to be used in major computing industries by Google, Microsoft and IBM.
  • Energy – The global energy crisis stems partially from the ever-growing use of the Internet and the vast energy needed to support it. The solution is to revolutionize electronic and optoelectronic components of communications and computer systems so that they use only a small fraction of the energy used today. The Technion is developing a new generation of quantum devices with ultra low energy consumption to allow our computing and communications systems to expand, while decreasing reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Biomedical – Sensing devices that contain both small and sensitive sensors can be used for biomedical purposes, such as in making implantable diagnostic sensors and super-resolution medical imaging.
  • Defense – Ultra-sensitive night vision technology and sensors for magnetic fields, acceleration, temperature, hazardous materials and dangerous environmental conditions are also being made.

Why Technion?

The Technion’s infrastructure and expertise are well-positioned for researching and developing real-world devices that were only imagined in the quantum theoretical world. Interdisciplinary efforts made by scientists and engineers working together at the Technion Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute are changing our world.

For example, a team at Russell Berrie headed by Professor David Gershoni was the first to prove that “quantum dots,” tiny particles of semiconducting materials, emit single photons. Today, the Technion is a world leader in the development of photon emitters, which are expected to lead to faster computers, improved communications technologies and a more secure Internet.

The Technion has a “cohesive research culture” that combines the fundamental science and advanced engineering required to make great advances in quantum science, matter and engineering research. Working together, they can take what is learned in quantum level research to develop devices that take advantage of quantum science.

To carry out this important work, the Technion has forged collaborative relationships with other world-class universities, including the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada), a world leader in quantum computing, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Caltech, Stanford and the University of Michigan.