Lasers, magnet resonance tomography and semi-conductors are technologies from the field of quantum physics that affect our lives already today. The potential for quantum technologies in the areas of communication, computing, sensor systems and imaging dominates technological debates on the future. In order to be able to utilise these potentials, it will be necessary to have cross-regional platforms that combine different specialisations. “Quantum technologies have the potential to advance fields of innovation substantially. If we are going to be successful in assuming one of the leading positions in international competition, we need to create cross-regional structures in which we can share our knowledge”, explains Minister Theresia Bauer, chairperson of the Foundation Administration at the Carl Zeiss Foundation.
Photonics is one of the key technologies in the field of quantum science. Photons serve as sensor elements, data transmitters and quantum systems. The linking of quantum technologies and photonics forms the foundation of the Carl Zeiss Foundation Center QPhoton at the sites in Jena, Stuttgart and Ulm. The objective is to develop a new generation of imaging and sensor technologies based on quantum science. These technologies will allow for higher sensitivities and faster data processing. Linking these three sites will help advance quantum photonics, all the way from basic research to application. The respective strengths in quantum technologies with atoms, solids, superconducting materials and photons complement each other and enable focused support of young scientists. “The CZF Center QPhoton offers a promising research platform for networking innovative approaches in the field of imaging, sensor systems and information processing. Quantum photonics is one of the most relevant key technologies in this field”, explains Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, member of the Foundation Administration at the Carl Zeiss Foundation.
In the CZF Center QPhoton, this aim is being pursued at a cross-regional level in three innovation areas: sensor technologies for controlling quantum systems, quantum technologies for quantum imaging techniques and quantum-based information processing.
Three innovation areas are working together at a cross-regional level
In the area of sensor technologies for controlling quantum systems, scientists focus on the research and development of highly sensitive sensors. “Quantum systems, as they are currently already being used with applications such as quantum computing, are extremely sensitive to external disturbances”, explains Professor Joachim Ankerhold, site manager of the CZF Center QPhoton Ulm. In order to fully research and utilise these systems, however, they must not only be measured, but also manipulated. “This is where the newest and even future techniques in sensor technology come in: they interfere only minimally with the quantum mechanics of the systems, yet deliver highly precise information about their actual quantum properties and quantum states”, Ankerhold continues. This information in turns forms the basis for control and targeted influence, for instance in correcting errors in quantum computers or optimisation of material properties.
In the area of quantum technology for quantum imaging, the first applications such as quantum microscopy will be developed for the life sciences. By precisely determining the location and nature of molecules, for instance, new applications for cancer treatment can be explored. “Optical methods are typically used to read quantum mechanical bits. One of the tasks of quantum imaging technology is to improve quality and reduce the error rate. Other light-sensitive objects can also be detected with less interference, for example, using entangled photon pairs in various spectral ranges”, explains Professor Tilman Pfau, site manager for the CZF Center QPhoton Stuttgart.
The development of methods for data and signal processing as well as specific photonic hardware for use in quantum computing is the focus of the quantum-based information processing innovation area. “On the one hand, quantum information processing can be used to tackle computing tasks that even the most modern high-performance computers can’t handle. On the other hand, it’s also a question of finding new means of acquiring information from physical systems that isn’t available with conventional approaches, and then relaying this information”, explains Professor Andreas Tünnermann, site manager of the CZF Center QPhoton at the University of Jena. Together with the Jena-based Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering, the new centre is working in this context to identify concrete areas of quantum added value for the industry.
A total of about 50 scientists will be collaborating across the three innovation fields at the CZF Center QPhoton. In addition to the research collaborations, the scientists will benefit from joint guest lectures, seminars and workshops as well as cross-site events and continuing education opportunities.
About the Carl Zeiss Foundation
The objective of the Carl Zeiss Foundation is to create spaces for scientific breakthroughs. As a partner of excellent science, it supports both basic and application-oriented research as well as teaching in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and maths). Founded in 1889 by the physicist and mathematician Ernst Abbe, the Carl Zeiss Foundation is one of the oldest and largest private foundations for funding research activities in Germany. The Carl Zeiss Foundation is the sole proprietor of Carl Zeiss AG and SCHOTT AG. The CZF projects are financed through dividends from the two foundation companies.
Text: Carl Zeiss Foundation