The HUB supports cross-departmental and cross-faculty collaboration within quantum technologies
Quantum Research at SCIENCE
Quantum technologies will revolutionise our lives in the coming years – in ways that can be difficult to comprehend. The Faculty of Science (UCPH SCIENCE) is home to some of the world’s most advanced quantum technology research environments, in four departments: Niels Bohr Institute, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Department of Computer Science, Department of Biology and Department of Chemistry.
At SCIENCE, researchers work in groups with different aspects of quantum mechanics.
The research takes place in four departments:
Niels Bohr Institute
Department of Computer Science
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Department of Chemistry
Department of Biology
Quantum technology’s enormous potential
Quantum technology covers three technologies: Quantum sensors, quantum communication and quantum computers, including quantum simulators.
- Quantum sensors will help us to better utilise our resources.
- Quantum communication will allow us to communicate without being hacked, and without communication codes being broken.
- Quantum computers can deliver immense computing power, allowing very complex systems – such as biological or medical systems – to be simulated from the ground up.
UCPH SCIENCE has world-leading research facilities and expertise in these three areas of quantum technology.
The time frame for the development and use of the three quantum technologies varies. ‘Near-term’ quantum computers, and quantum simulators in particular, already have huge potential in the short and medium term for revolutionising and creating value for the green transition, health and cyber and information security.
- Sustainable materials and chemicals: The green revolution needs innovation in materials science and chemistry if we are to succeed in creating a sustainable transition. This can be achieved through more powerful simulations of material properties based on quantum hardware, leading to a better understanding of the quantum properties of materials, which we can exploit to build better solar cells, catalysts etc.
- Efficient carbon capture: The development of effective catalysts to be used in carbon capture will facilitate active reduction of CO2 levels in the atmosphere on a new scale.
- Fewer greenhouse gases from fertilisers: Much of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and use of natural gas stem from the production of chemical fertilisers, which are necessary to produce sufficient food for the global population. Quantum simulation of the natural production process of ammonia, centred around the FeMoco molecule, will enable us to increase food production with fewer emissions.
- Energy efficiency: Quantum computing can optimise many calculations in the energy sector, so that solar cells, energy grids, etc. are optimally utilised.
- Optimisation of transport: Quantum computing can solve the classic ‘traveling salesman’ optimisation problem (where a trip with 10 stops can have more than three million possible routes) for the transport and logistics industry in completely new ways. The benefits will be CO2 reductions and technical innovation and modernisation in the transport sector.
- New diagnostics: Quantum sensors can measure weak signals from the body, which can otherwise only be accessed via surgery. This can open up completely new opportunities for diagnosing heart and brain diseases.
- New treatment options: A quantum computer can solve problems with a processing power that is millions of times greater than the best supercomputer, such as simulation of:
- macromolecules – making it possible to understand and treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s and ALS.
- the properties and chemical reactions of various substances – at a speed that will allow the development of medicines and new vaccines in a fraction of the time it takes today.
- Rapid gene sequencing: With quantum computing’s capacity to handle huge data volumes, it will also be possible to map genetic material more quickly (sequencing). During the COVID pandemic, sequencing played a vital role in containing infection via monitoring new mutations and tracking infections.
Cyber and information security
- Secure communication: Quantum communication can revolutionise Danish defences against cyberattacks and create unbreakable encryption, e.g. in communication between ministries and securing critical infrastructure.
- Tracking and navigation: Quantum systems can improve GPS-based navigation systems, and quantum sensors can track enemy weapons, planes or drones, predict the smallest changes in the Earth’s surface and thus issue early warnings for earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.
Quantum physics describes how nature behaves at the smallest scales. Atoms, electrons and photons – the smallest constituents of light – are some of the elements that researchers work with.
The history of quantum physics starts in the late 19th and early 20th century. Classical physics worked well at normal scales, but when you reached a sufficiently small scale, accepted facts began to crumble.
Superposition – in two places at the same time
On the smallest scales, nature behaves very differently than in classical physics. In the world of quantum physics, things can be in two places at once. The phenomena we observe can only be explained by the particles being able to be in superposition – as if they are in more than one position at the same time. Or as if an atom is in more than one energy state at the same time.
Quantum entanglement occurs when the states of two or more particles are described by a superposition, e.g. they can both be different distances from a specific location. Entanglement means that when you measure the location of one particle, you immediately fix the location of the other particle, even over long distances – and hence faster than the speed of light – the fastest possible speed at which a signal can spread according to Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Quantum technologies can radically change our world
Superposition and entangled states can be exploited for many different things, the best-known of which is currently the quantum computer. However, there are many other applications, e.g. quantum states can be used to produce ultra-precise measurements and create unbreakable encryption of information. Researchers are also in the process of laying the foundation for a quantum internet, which will offer enormous computing capacity by combining the power of several quantum computers. This quantum internet will need the unbreakable encryption mentioned, so it is crucial that encryption, networks and quantum computers are developed in step.
There are certain tasks that a quantum computer is most suitable for. These are tasks with high complexity, where you need to calculate many parallel outcomes at the same time. For example, it would be an insurmountable task for a conventional computer to keep track of all the electrons and chemical bonds in a molecule. If you could do that, you could predict chemical structures and processes with applications in medicine, that target specific patients. Conventional supercomputers are pushed to their limits today to perform weather simulations or other scientific simulations, such as of star formation, sea currents or pandemics. The hope is that the ability of quantum computers to handle large volumes of data and make parallel calculations can give us much faster and more accurate results.
It is still unclear exactly which changes quantum-related technologies will give rise to, but it is increasingly apparent that they will have profound impacts on society.