Outlook on Quantum Materials R&D

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 14 October 2020

The Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST) Summit, hosted by the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Lab, took place on October 7-8th and connected industry, governmental, and academic experts to discuss six broad themes in panel sessions. PQI students attended the online event and prepared summaries of each panel. You can find the first three of the panel reports here and here. The last half will be released next week.

The Department of Energy Investments & Capabilities in Quantum Materials R&D panel discussed the foundational quantum information science (QIS) in discovering new quantum materials and molecular systems by controlling their unique properties such that they can be incorporated into qubits for quantum sensing, computing, and communication.

Some of the major challenges in quantum material research are characterizing the functionality of quantum devices at a fundamental level, innovative theory and computational tools, world-leading experimental capabilities, and most importantly, diverse research teams. The panel discussion was moderated by Linda Horton, (Associate Director of Science for Basic Energy Sciences, Department of Energy, Office of Science).

The participating panelists were: Mark Ritter, (Chair, Physical Sciences Council at IBM Research), Jim Misewich, (Associate Lab Director, Energy Sciences, Brookhaven National Laboratory), Ben Lawrie, (Research Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory) and Laura Greene, (Chief Scientist, National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and Krafft Professor of Physics, Florida State University). The panelists provided their perspectives on the challenges in quantum material research and also on the investments by DOE and industries in this rapidly evolving field.

Jim Misewich opened the panel with a discussion on synergies between DOE-funded QIS centers focused on quantum material research, external partners, industries who make QIS devices, theory and computing collaborators, and other DOE facilities. He pointed out that it is essential to engage researchers with expertise in different fields to solve cross-disciplinary challenges by forming different synergies and deeper collaborations.

Laura Greene mentioned that her MAG lab was primarily a user facility and that while they conduct in-house research, the lion’s share of their fundamental research is driven by their users, which keeps them up-to-date with the everchanging landscape of quantum materials research. She went on to explain that one of the questions they are pursuing is what will be the most reliable qubit.  

To answer this, they focus their research on studying emerging phenomena in quantum materials by coupling spin and orbital degrees of freedom through magnetic fields that can probe different electronic phases and properties. She believes it is exciting to be in a user facility working with great scientists during a very exciting time for quantum materials research.

Ben Lawrie brought the focus onto the major challenges in developing quantum optical sensors and nanophotonic systems. He considers photons as ideal platforms for quantum information science. He pointed out that there are different kinds of quantum systems commercially available ranging from quantum random generators to quantum microscopes using entangled states of light. Despite the tremendous advancements in the past few decades in high-resolution magnetic field imaging, superconducting quantum sensors, and microwave photons in superconducting qubits in quantum computing, a fundamental understanding of light-matter interactions in all these systems is necessary to progress in this field.

Mark Ritter described the need for a scientific understanding of defects that limit the quantum device performance.  DOE labs have facilities like synchrotron light sources that provide the spatial and energetic characterization of quantum materials including strain in materials and interfaces. These resources along with the high-performance computing facilities will help us in understanding and modeling the key factors that are responsible for device performance and how these defects couple with qubits. DOE labs also have unique growth facilities including isotropic single-layer materials, which are crucial for developing new device configurations for quantum information science.

The panelists discussed the innovative facilities that are needed to accelerate and transform quantum research. One of the most common suggestions by the panel was to develop a low-temperature facility where these devices can function, as these devices are typically found to be working below 1 K.

With the goal to develop a qubit and figure out in which states they function, new millikelvin platforms and in-situ characterizations play an important role. Having a center for material growth at extreme conditions, such as at high pressures and temperatures, is very crucial in looking for new phases of quantum materials, as there is no clear winner for a qubit yet. Such a center could bring together different funding agencies, universities, national labs, and industries.

Throughout the discussion, the panelists stressed the relevance of ideal partnerships between world-class researchers in complementary and diverse fields collaborating to drive scientific discovery. The key challenge, however, is to get the partners to agree on shared goals to drive collaboration across disciplines to solve important problems and to find the best way to work together respecting each other’s institutional work cultures.

This is very challenging since researchers across diverse fields use different terminology. Overcoming this communication barrier takes patience and effort. Finally, partnerships that combine commercial development and fundamental materials research are needed to advance in this field.

Written by Namitha Ann James