On November 17th, a year after the start of construction, Ulm University celebrated the roofing ceremony of the research building 'Centre for Quantum and Biosciences' (ZQB). The building is located on the campus of Ulm University between Albert-Einstein-Allee and Meyerhofstraße and has a usable floor space of circa 2800 m2. From the beginning of 2019, around 115 researchers will occupy the four-storey building and work together in state-of-the-art laboratories. With joint forces, they want to develop novel quantum technological methods and apply them in biomedical research and diagnostics. Their focus lies on high-performance sensors and the improvement of imaging techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRT).
'Quantum science affords us astounding new insights into the world of biological systems. The innovative technological infrastructure at the ZQB in Ulm allows researchers from physics, chemistry and molecular medicine to investigate new approaches for the development of medications and biomaterials,' emphasises Ulrich Steinbach, head of the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (MWK), at the roofing ceremony. The potential of quantum technology has not yet been exhausted and the second quantum revolution is just around the corner. The researchers in Ulm enjoy ideal conditions – with the ZQB being an important component.
The President of Ulm University, Professor Michael Weber, mentioned in his speech the various construction works throughout the anniversary year: 'The many construction sites on campus show that the University is well and alive. Outstanding research and high third-party funds are prerequisites for the establishment of the ZQB,' says Weber. The new research building is an important component of the master plan Science City. Ulm Mayor of Finances, Martin Bendel, added that a new city district is being created on the Eselsberg – further driven by the tram line 2. He also conveyed congratulations from the lord mayor and city councillors.
The successful application for an ERC Synergy Grant over € 10.3 million at the end of 2012 by Professors Martin Plenio, Fedor Jelezko and Tanja Weil was the starting point for the new research building. With the use of a novel type of sensor technology, the BioQ group wants to investigate structures and functions of individual biomolecules under physiological conditions. The objective is to fundamentally research the quantum mechanics in phenomena like photosynthesis. In this context, nanodiamonds are often used to measure magnetic and electrical fields at the nano level.
In life sciences, for example, diamond-based sensors have already successfully been used for the detection of individual protein molecules and their structures. Together with colleagues from Stuttgart, the BioQ group also works on biochips to measure brain signals in the future. Another promising project of the group focuses on the improvement of MRT: Quantum technology is hoped to make metabolic processes observable and, for example, indicate the success of cancer treatments. Virologist Professor Frank Kirchhoff is now also contributing his expertise to the BioQ group.
The unique research building was designed specifically to cater to the scientists' needs when conducting research projects with highly sensitive measurement technology. The funding decision made at the science conference of federal and state governments made the ZQB feasible. The federal government covers 50% of the construction costs – which mount up to over € 23 million – while the state government and Ulm University share the other half. One special structural feature are the laser laboratories in the basement, which are designed as 'rooms inside the rooms'. Further protection from sound, vibrations and electromagnetism is provided by special foundations, which are bedded on air springs. Wilmuth Lindenthal, Chief Officer of the Vermögen und Bau Baden-Württemberg Amt Ulm (office for assets and construction Baden-Württemberg in Ulm) complimented the fantastic collaboration with the architecture company Heinle, Wischer und Partner in Stuttgart and the engineering companies Meier and Müller & Bleher with regards to building technology. Vermögen und Bau Baden-Württemberg (Amt Ulm) managed the project.
Quantum science is one of several research specialities at Ulm University. Together with researchers at the University of Stuttgart and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, the researchers from Ulm have taken the first hurdle in the Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments and were invited to submit a full proposal for Clusters of Excellence in this research field as well as in the area of battery research. The basis for this proposal is the collaborative IQST, where findings from quantum science are transferred into technological applications. Their joint application in the MWK funding initiative for regional research alliances was also successful. Similar research buildings comparable to the ZQB are being built in Stuttgart as well.