UTC Hosts 3 High-Profile Experts When 'Gig City Goes Quantum'

  • Tuesday, April 11, 2023
  • Chuck Wasserstrom, UTC
From left: Dr. Raphael Pooser, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distinguished Research Scientist; Dr. James Troupe, Xairos Quantum Communications Chief Scientist; Dr. Tian Li, UTC Assistant Professor of Physics
From left: Dr. Raphael Pooser, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distinguished Research Scientist; Dr. James Troupe, Xairos Quantum Communications Chief Scientist; Dr. Tian Li, UTC Assistant Professor of Physics

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher, the chief scientist with a Denver-based quantum startup and UTC’s own quantum optics expert headline three UTC-hosted presentations offered in conjunction with Gig City Goes Quantum, an initiative to prepare for education, jobs and business opportunities in the emerging quantum technology field.

The initiative is led by EPB and Qubitekk, which are partnering to offer the EPB Quantum NetworkS powered by Qubitekk to accelerate the commercialization of quantum technologies. Efforts focus on collaboration with community leaders, universities, schools and companies, starting in Chattanooga and spreading cooperatively across the U.S.

Gig City Goes Quantum, the initiative, is also supported by GigCityGoesQuantum.com, the interactive website. It’s packed with educational resources to engage people of all ages in 1,000+ quantum learning activities from World Quantum Day, April 14, through May 31.

Among those activities are two events on Friday—one at Chattanooga State Community College and the other at Tyner Academy—that feature Qubitekk co-founder Dr. Duncan Earl and are followed the next week by three UTC-hosted presentations open to campus and the public.

All three presentations at UTC begin at noon in the UTC Center for Professional Education in the James R. Mapp Building on campus. Each is free and the public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

On Monday, April 17, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Senior Research Scientist Dr. Raphael Pooser discusses quantum computing. On Wednesday, April 19, Dr. James Troupe, chief scientist for quantum communications company Xairos will deliver a presentation on quantum networking. On Friday, April 21, quantum optics expert and UTC Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Tian Li discusses quantum sensing.

Dr. Li has spent 14 years as a quantum optics scientist and joined UTC in August 2022. He is among six faculty members affiliated with the University’s new Quantum Initiative.

“I’m very glad that UTC hired me to join the Quantum Initiative on campus, and it is no doubt that quantum information science and engineering will be the next technological breakthrough,” he said. “It’s right there, and it can impact everybody’s everyday life.

“Quantum physics provides the most accurate description of the world around us. Quantum technologies are transforming communication, computation, information processing and providing new insights into fundamental understanding of large complex systems in chemistry and biology as well.”

This emerging field, Dr. Li said, offers scientists the “most convenient tools to image fundamental processes at cellular and molecular levels to comprehend the myriads of biological interactions occurring in living cells, where our current understanding is limited by the spatial resolution, specificity and precision of available methods.”

In addition to biological applications, “We also have the plan to implement quantum communication using the quantum network being established by EPB and Qubitekk,” Dr. Li said.

Potential benefits of quantum communication include harnessing the power of emerging technologies in quantum information to develop tools for a secure, resilient and reliable power grid.

“Quantum networked sensors will detect equipment failure and monitor grid integrity through parameters such as temperature or the physical state of power lines,” Dr. Li said. “These sensors will address critical aspects of security and resilience such as handling large amounts of data simultaneously, data security, trustworthy components and detection of anomalous events.

“That’s the kind of study we would like to do, and that’s why we will have the facility—the EPB Quantum Network node on UTC campus. It’s the world’s first commercial quantum network, with four nodes so far, but it will provide us a testbed to do quantum network sensing experiments.”

Compared to even state-of-the-art “classical” (historically available) measures used by scientists, measurements involving quantum sensing are vastly superior, thanks to the phenomenon of “quantum entanglement.”

This entanglement, Dr. Li explained, refers to two or more quantum particles that are strongly correlated. Any change to one particle simultaneously impacts the others—even if others are “indefinitely” far apart. Quantum-based communications involves reproducing this otherwise naturally occurring phenomenon.

“The idea is we will first create entanglement via quantum optical experiments,” Dr. Li said. “We then distribute the entanglement to the different nodes of the network, and we eventually take advantage of the distributed entanglement to do the measurement.

“Our ultimate goal is to prove that the measurement sensitivity rendered by the networked quantum sensors is significantly advantageous over the best classical sensors.”

Dr. Li said he and his fellow UTC researchers have a lot of ideas for experiments, and quantum research capabilities hold great promise for students, too.

“There are many education thrusts, as well,” he said. “UTC is also en route to launch a certificate program aiming at training technology professionals, in particular non-physicists (such as bankers, programmers, telecom engineers) in the art of quantum information science, such as quantum communications and quantum computing. This is just one of the many benefits of having a quantum node on campus. We want to first develop a certificate program, then a minor and eventually a major.

"That’s why this is such an important campuswide initiative—involving physics, mathematics, engineering and even business—and it is going to make UTC a unique place with exceptional quantum opportunities.”

The initiative also is an effort of UTC to support workforce development and new business investment and serve as a gateway for building partnerships with universities across the country, Chancellor Steven R. Angle noted upon the November 2022 announcement of UTC’s collaboration in EPB’s quantum network. The network is expected to be in operation by summer.

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