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NPL scientist awarded EPSRC quantum technologies career development fellowship

NPL senior scientist Dr de Graaf has been awarded a quantum technologies career development fellowship from EPSRC.

The fellowship aims to deliver the next generation of science leaders in quantum technologies while simultaneously addressing key technology needs for quantum. Dr de Graaf will lead a project which envisages the laying out of the foundations for a new era in materials science relevant for solid-state quantum circuits. The project will develop a new kind of instrument that is essential for understanding the quality of materials used in quantum circuits and quantum computers.

Historically, the semiconductor industry has been a significant driving force for the development of the materials science tools we have at our disposal today. Now we are facing a new paradigm in computing where quantum computers hold promise to solve much more complicated problems in record time, which will revolutionise society as we know it. However, the road there is complex, and many challenges must be overcome to achieve fault-tolerant error-corrected quantum computing. One of the major challenges is materials.

At present defects in materials spoil the operation of quantum circuits, and these are not the usual defects that the semiconductor industry has developed tools to battle for many decades. The material defects spoiling quantum computers have energy scales and densities that are very low and far out of reach of the tools available to material scientists today. New tools must be developed to cater to the materials measurement challenge posed by quantum circuits, tools that can see the defects just the way quantum circuits do.

This is exactly what this fellowship project will aim to do. Specifically, a new type of scanning probe microscope will be developed. This microscope will be able to locate and ‘see’ individual defects in quantum circuits. Having this capability will allow us to understand in what parts of the circuits most defects are located, something that is not known with much detail today. This will allow better insights into the impact of different processing steps, and lead to new improved ways of fabricating quantum circuits.

Dr. de Graaf, Senior Research Scientist, said: “The fellowship presents a unique opportunity to lay the foundations of a new direction in materials science, develop UK leadership in this important area, and to build a diverse team bringing together skills from other areas of engineering and materials science towards better materials for core quantum technologies. “

25 Apr 2022