MOSCOW -- This week's International Conference on Quantum Technologies (ICQT) features an all-star cast of quantum researchers, from Seth Lloyd, the self-proclaimed quantum mechanic who popularized quantum technology in his book Programming the Universe, to Nicholas Gisim, the founder of first successful quantum computing company, ID Quantique.
"The universe is nothing more than a giant quantum computer," Lloyd, who directs MIT's Center for Extreme Quantum Information Theory, told us. "And once we fully understand the physics necessary to build our own quantum computers, we will be able to create extremely accurate models of anything in the universe."
The Russian Federation's aim is nothing less than to catapult itself to the forefront of quantum technology through its Russian Quantum Center (RQC), a project of the government-sponsored Russian Innovation Hub (Skolkovo Foundation). To achieve its goal, it needs to attract international talent to the RQC, and it is trying to do this through incentives.
Serguei Kouzmine, president of the RQC, told us:
We have three levels of participation in the Russian Quantum Center. The highest level is coming to work for us at the Center here in Moscow. The second level is to become a principal investigator, who leads one of our research projects here but then goes back to their own lab when the project is finished. And the third level is to become an external member, who participates in our research but works in their own lab elsewhere.
The RQC is soliciting applications for its scientific director post and 8-10 principal investigators to lead theoretical and experimental quantum technology projects.
"We are very enthusiastic about trying to make Russia a part of the international scientific community," Eugene Polzik, the leader of the Quantum Optics Lab at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, a member of the RQC's executive committee, and the principal contact for RQC applicants, said during an ICQT panel discussion, "The Introduction of Quantum Technologies."
By hosting the conference, the RQC created a showcase for its researchers and international advisory board members, who are helping to define the future of quantum technologies. Wolfgang Ketterle, a Nobel physics laureate, MIT professor, and advisory board member, said during the panel that end-user applications usually take a back seat to basic science when technologies are being developed.
Fundamental scientists often do not know how long it will take to develop an applications -- three years or 30 years -- because progression from fundamentals to applications is unpredictable. For instance, it would have been impossible for the inventors of the laser to predict all the applications for it -- from medical treatments to entertainment DVDs. Likewise with quantum technologies. The scientists themselves know the science is important but may only see one application for it, whereas there will be many more that they did not think of. For instance, the researchers who developed atomic clocks could never have predicted that the GPS would turn out to be one of its most widespread applications.
Wolfgang Ketterle, a Nobel laureate in physics, MIT professor, and RQC international advisory board member, spoke at the International Conference on Quantum Technologies.
Mikhail Lukin, a Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology graduate, Harvard University professor, and director of Harvard's Quantum Optics Center, is now an RQC international advisory board member. He said during the panel that quantum technologies not only will enable new applications but also will enhance the functionality of many of the most common technologies available today.
"Many technologies today can be made more sensitive with quantum technologies," Lukin said. "Atomic clocks, for instance, can be made more sensitive by basing them on q-bits [quantum bits], and because q-bits are so sensitive to their environment, they can also sense changes in many other things. For instance, they could sense living cells for more accurate brain imaging or maybe detect cancer in its very early stages."