Quantum Photon

International Research Center on Photonic Quantum Computing

University of Paderborn receives millions in funding from the NRW Ministry of Culture and Science

With “Profilbildung 2020”, the NRW Ministry of Culture and Science (MKW) provides scope for the development of forward-looking research topics and the sustainable increase in the competitiveness of the respective institutions. To this end, it provides around one million euros in funding per project every year. Building on existing strengths, potential areas are to be expanded that contribute to the further development of research profiles. The University of Paderborn has now successfully prevailed with an application for the potential area “Photonic Quantum Computing”. In it, scientists pursue an interdisciplinary approach to the realization of a photonic quantum computer. In the future, all steps from basic research to new quantum algorithms to the modeling of large, complex quantum systems and the realization of photonic quantum networks for corresponding computing applications will be combined at one location. The project also aims to train a new generation of excellent researchers in the field of quantum computing, taking into account gender equality. With the profile area, Paderborn is to establish itself as an internationally visible center for photonic quantum technologies.

From basics to application

“The design and utilization of the so-called second quantum revolution is one of the central challenges of our digital century. In particular, the quantum computer with its previously unattainable computing power will inevitably lead to essential changes in technology and society,” says project leader Prof. Dr. Christine Silberhorn. However, according to Silberhorn, the road to the realization of application-specific quantum computers is still a long one. Crucial questions have so far been open and solutions are often only recognizable in rudiments. The scientists want to change this: At the core of the large-scale project is the parallel and coordinated development of quantum photonic, quantum information theory and mathematical-algorithmic models and techniques that exploit the full potential of photonic quantum computers. In the future, nothing less than a nationally and internationally leading research center in the field of photonic quantum computing is to be created. Silberhorn explains: “On the one hand, the driving scientific questions are linked to the aspect of the scalability of photonic quantum systems, on the other hand, algorithmic fundamentals and practicable applications with photonic quantum systems must be researched.”

And that’s what it’s all about: The applications are highly complex and must be robust against data loss and environmental influences, among other things. “For this, it is necessary to develop highly integrated systems. While applications and information theory techniques are already quite well understood in quantum communication, the situation in quantum computing is different,” Silberhorn continues. Therefore, inter- and transdisciplinary as well as international collaborations are to be established that specifically deal with obstacles in research that a single discipline alone cannot overcome. According to Silberhorn, this will make it possible for the first time to provide flexible and previously unfeasible integrated optical systems for quantum computing.

Bundling of core competencies at the Paderborn location

Scientists from the Faculties of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics as well as Natural Sciences, led by the Department of Physics, the Institute of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering as well as from the fields of applied and pure mathematics, are involved in the initiative. Through the targeted combination of various core competencies, the research field of photonic quantum computing is systematically developed and new synergies are created far beyond the capacities of the individual disciplines. The establishment of new structures that transfer the topic from basic physics research to the research activities of engineering is almost unique in the German research landscape. University President Prof. Dr. Birgitt Riegraf is also proud of this: “The bundling of different disciplines results in a concentrated research strength based on the outstanding competencies and years of work of the award-winning researchers. This success, which makes Paderborn research even more visible internationally, is great.”

Highly qualified young scientists

Above all, the training of young scientists, which teaches all aspects of photonic quantum technologies with a focus on “Quantum Computing”, is particularly special. Among other things, an interdisciplinary Research Training Group is to be established for this purpose. Silberhorn: “This is an opportunity to establish itself as the first designated location for quantum photonics engineers in Germany, with a special focus on equal opportunities for scientists.” In addition, the establishment of an interdisciplinary Master’s program “Quantum Computing” is sought.

Interdisciplinary Center for Quantum Photonics

Critical technologies underlying the development of a photonic quantum computer are already being successively established in Paderborn. With the funding of the research building “Photonic Quantum Systems Laboratory” (PhoQS Lab) approved last year, a suitable infrastructure is being created to research future-oriented quantum circuits for applications in quantum photonics. Together with the founding of the “Institute for Photonic Quantum Systems” (PhoQS), a unique interdisciplinary center for quantum photonics is under construction.

Ten-year plan

In the next three to five years, the foundations will be laid for the development of photonic quantum computing towards a practical hardware platform and an essential component of high-performance computing, so-called High Performance Computing (HPC). In the following five to seven years, the scalability of the systems will be increased, the integration of quantum computing into classical computer platforms and especially in HPC systems will be significantly expanded, and the algorithmic techniques for photonic quantum computing will be significantly expanded. It starts in November. Within the first five years, new fields of application for non-universal quantum computers will be developed and integrated optical, scalable quantum circuits will be developed that are ideally adapted to the challenges of quantum computing. In addition, the foundations for the interdisciplinary training of quantum computing specialists at the Paderborn site will be laid.

Source:  Paderborn University.  Prof. Dr. Christine Silberhorn,  International Research Center on Photonic Quantum Computing…

Content may have been edited for style and clarity.