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January 13, 2021 Wednesday 04:19:15 PM IST

Quantum projects launched to solve universe’s mysteries

Science Innovations

Researchers will use cutting-edge quantum technologies to transform our understanding of the universe and answer key questions such as the nature of dark matter and black holes. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is supporting seven projects with a £31 million investment to demonstrate how quantum technologies could solve some of the greatest mysteries in fundamental physics. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have been awarded funding on four of the seven projects. Just as quantum computing promises to revolutionise traditional computing, technologies such as quantum sensors have the potential to radically change our approach to understanding our universe.

The projects are supported through the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics programme, delivered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund. The programme is part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme.

AION: A UK Atom Interferometer Observatory and Network has been awarded £7.2 million in funding and will be led by Imperial College London. The project will develop and use technology based on quantum interference between atoms to detect ultra-light dark matter and sources of gravitational waves, such as collisions between massive black holes far away in the universe and violent processes in the very early universe.

The Quantum Sensors for the Hidden Sector (QSHS) project, led by the University of Sheffield, has been awarded £4.8 million in funding. The project aims to contribute to the search for axions, low-mass ‘hidden’ particles that are candidates to solve the mystery of dark matter. They will develop new quantum measurement technology for inclusion in the US ADMX experiment, which can then be used to search for axions in parts of our galaxy’s dark matter halo that have never been explored before.

Next one is the Determination of Absolute Neutrino Mass using Quantum Technologies, which will be led by UCL. The project aims to harness recent breakthroughs in quantum technologies to solve one of the most important outstanding challenges in particle physics – determining the absolute mass of neutrinos.

Cambridge researchers are also involved in the Quantum Simulators for Fundamental Physics project, led by the University of Nottingham. The project aims to develop quantum simulators capable of providing insights into the physics of the very early universe and black holes. The goals include simulating aspects of quantum black holes and testing theories of the quantum vacuum that underpin ideas on the origin of the universe.

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