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Bringing quantum technologies to the market.

Quantum physics explains the nature and behaviour of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level. Quantum technology translates some of the stranger features of quantum physics into practical applications. It's the science of the very weird and small used to make life better.

The first generation of quantum technology has already given us the electronics that we use in our everyday lives, including telecommunications, computing and the control systems that underpin our infrastructure and transport. It has also given us the laser, first thought of as an invention with no uses but which has since revolutionised communications, manufacturing, measurement, medicine and much more.

We believe that future developments in quantum technology will lead to computers that can solve intractable problems, give us highly secure communications, extremely sensitive sensors, and the ability to form images in very difficult situations.

In a bid to place the UK in a world-leading position in the emerging multibillion pound quantum technology markets, the government has invested 270 million [pounds sterling] in an initiative called the National Quantum Technologies Programme.

This has seen the creation of four quantum technology hubs, including Glasgow University's Quantum Imaging Centre, or QuantIC, which brings together more than 120 researchers from the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, Bristol and Oxford with more than 30 industry partners to develop and commercialise this new technology.

QuantIC's research builds on a wide range of tools and technologies, including image detectors that can not only detect individual photons but also measure their time of arrival, through to the most advanced techniques for fabricating nanometre-scale structures which we are using to make new types of gravity sensors and a wide range of light sensors and photon sources.

The centre's development work focuses on imaging with correlation, timing and squeezing, and looking at how we can scale this technology. In a nutshell, we use light at the photon (or most elementary) level, a 'quantum of light', and look at how we can harness its properties into new or better cameras, components or sensors. For instance, one project we are working on is using a single-pixel camera to image methane gas leaks, which are invisible to the naked eye. There are sensors that already do this in the oil and gas sector, but they are large and expensive, while ours has the potential to be a fraction of the size and cost. The technology could also be further developed to see through smoke, which can have a very useful application for firefighters. Other innovations we are working on include the ability to see around corners and to reconstruct images taken through biological tissue and gravity imaging. These have potential uses in defence, environmental monitoring and medical imaging.

There is still a lot to discover about quantum technology, not just from a quantum-enhanced imaging perspective. There is also quantum computing, sensing, communications and much more. What's good is that the UK and QuantIC are at the forefront of this new technological horizon.

To promote more academic-industrial collaboration we have created an Innovation Space to bring together quantum technologists and industry professionals. Located at the University of Glasgow, it offers lab space adjacent to more than 25 million [pounds sterling] worth of nanofabrication tools with the capability to develop and deliver components.

The Innovation Space will support QuantIC's aim to bring quantum technologies closer to market.


270m [pounds sterling] In a bid to place the UK in a world-leading position in the emerging quantum technology markets, the government has invested this sum in an initiative called the National Quantum Technologies Programme

Professor Steve Beaumont, director of the Quantum Imaging Centre, QuantIC, University of Glasgow
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Title Annotation:Academic insight
Author:Beaumont, Steve
Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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