Research Priority: Quantum Technologies

New quantum technologies promise applications with unprecedented speed, precision, and efficiency. Quantum computers are probably the best-known example. Forschungszentrum Jülich is a hotspot for quantum computing in Europe.

The wondrous world of the quantum cosmos. Copyright: SeitenPlan/Christian Marchionna

Second-generation quantum technologies such as quantum computers, quantum sensors, and quantum communication are set to open up diverse new applications – in the use of artificial intelligence, medical diagnostics, or secure communication. For this to be possible, the quantum mechanical effects on which the technologies are based must be controlled in a targeted manner. This means that particles have to be controlled very precisely – much more precisely than was previously necessary for lasers or semiconductor technologies such as smartphones or televisions, whose components also function on the basis of quantum physics.

Precise control and monitoring of the extremely sensitive quantum states is a major challenge. The quantum cosmos – in other words, the world on the very smallest, subatomic scale – is complex and functions according to rules that sometimes seem to contradict our understanding of the everyday world. Much research is still needed to understand the quantum world and make use of the possibilities it offers.

Focus on quantum computing and quantum materials

Quantum computer from the OpenSuperQ project. Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich/Sascha Kreklau

Quantum research is a research priority at Forschungszentrum Jülich. Basic research, theory, and development are closely linked here, with a particular focus on quantum materials and quantum computing.

Jülich covers the entire value chain in quantum computing: from the search for appropriate materials and the design of circuits and suitable cryoelectronics right up to the development of prototypes and applications. The researchers pursue different approaches to realizing quantum systems – for example with semiconductor qubits, superconducting qubits, and hybrid qubits. They also focus on the application of quantum computers.

Broad-based expertise

Jülich offers ideal conditions for quantum research. Renowned experts from a variety of fields work here, including progressive thinkers and pioneers such as David DiVincenzo, who developed criteria that a quantum computer must fulfil, and Tommaso Calarco, one of the authors of the European Quantum Manifesto, which led to the EU Quantum Flagship. Other researchers include Frank Wilhelm-Mauch, Hendrik Bluhm, and Rami Barends, who are building quantum computers with different qubit types in national and European projects. Or indeed Kristel Michielsen, who is advancing the development of quantum computers with the help of simulations on supercomputers.

This combination of quantum computers and supercomputers is a unique feature of research at Jülich. These hybrid systems aim to make the computing power of existing quantum systems usable for the first practical applications today.

World-class infrastructures

Cleanroom laboratory in the Helmholtz Nano Facility. Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich/Sascha Kreklau

The supercomputers are only one component of the various infrastructures that Jülich offers for research and application. The Helmholtz Quantum Center (HQC) provides Jülich with a central technology centre with various special laboratories where researchers can undertake all stages of development, from searching for suitable quantum materials and designing circuits to developing prototypes. The HQC, which has been under construction since 2020, is expected to be fully operational by 2025. Quantum chips can also be produced at the Helmholtz Nano Facility (HNF).

Through the Jülich UNified Infrastructure for Quantum computing (JUNIQ), science and industry can access various quantum systems, including experimental quantum systems and a quantum annealer from manufacturer D-Wave, the first quantum computer in Europe with over 5,000 qubits.

Close cooperation

The Jülich researchers work closely together, both internally via the Jülich Quantum Computing Alliance (JUQCA) and externally via the Helmholtz Quantum platform, along with other Helmholtz centres. They are also involved in North Rhine-Westphalia’s (NRW) quantum computing network “EIN Quantum NRW”, as well as conducting research within numerous national and European projects.

The exchange with industry plays an important role. For example, Jülich is involved in the Quantum Community Network (QCN) within the EU Quantum Flagship as well as in the European Quantum Industry Consortium (QuIC), which aims to promote competitiveness and economic growth in the European quantum technology industry. One thing is clear: in order to keep pace with countries like the USA or China in quantum technologies, European players must work closely together.

Last Modified: 24.10.2022