MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A West Virginia University researcher will lead a group of students in developing emerging quantum technologies, thanks to $598,000 in funding from the Department of Defense.
Subhasish Mandal, assistant professor in condensed matter physics, recently earned the funding from the DoD’s Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research with the long-term goal of enhancing quantum devices to operate at favorable temperature conditions. Currently, devices can run only in very cold conditions.
Quantum technology is rapidly becoming a part of the popular zeitgeist, Mandal said. Those technologies are already present in the modern world including magnetic resonance imaging, lasers, digital cameras and semiconductors. A second wave of quantum technologies is underway, with interest in national defense, particularly through advances in computing and cryptography.
“In this second wave of quantum technologies, the main challenge is to overcome the problem of decoherence – in which the environment interacts with quantum bits or ‘qubits,’ and causes information to be lost,” Mandal said. “Decoherence can emanate from changing electromagnetic waves and radiation from nearby warm objects.”
Mandal, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, proposed to solve this problem using quantum materials, where “quantum-mechanical phenomena underpin the behavior at the atomic scale and manifest themselves in the behavior of the material as we see them.” Mandal and his students will look for promising material candidates to control quantum decoherence. They will be performing state-of-the-art computations where interaction between a large number of electrons will be considered.
“Understanding quantum many-body interactions is a grand challenge in condensed matter physics,” Mandal said. “A ‘materials by designing’ loop will computationally screen the most promising candidates, followed by advanced materials synthesis and characterization, from which feedback about the properties will be included in future simulations and close the design loop on successful quantum materials.”
Most of the experiments will be performed by a team of collaborators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This work will directly support research efforts for at least two graduate and one undergraduate student at WVU.
“WVU students will be working on the computational and theoretical aspects of the project,” Mandal said. “They’ll perform first-principles-based computer simulations on modern supercomputers and interact with and guide the experimentalists on a regular basis.”
Overall, this research will build a larger base of students with quantum awareness, the potential for careers in quantum technology and interdisciplinary skills that can interface with both materials and data science, he said.
Mandal’s research aligns with problems that are central to condensed matter physics; namely, how to understand and control electrons in novel electronic devices. The proposed approach will create new challenges and knowledge by including quantum interactions. It will also further develop “materials by design” loops that are hard to implement in practice, especially for quantum materials.
“The full impact of quantum technology is yet unknown,” Mandal said. “It is clear that it is expected to benefit multiple areas, ranging from national security to future electronic devices to energy, finance, and pharmaceutical industries. Quantum technology will be a revolution in the digital world and everything that it facilitates.”
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