22 June 2015 11:10

Vastly improved medical imaging and guaranteed secure communications are a step closer following a funding boost of more than £700,000 in new quantum technology projects at Lancaster University.

Quantum technologies are predicted to revolutionise many aspects of our daily lives and Lancaster University’s Physics Department is at the forefront of working collaboratively with industrial partners in this pioneering field.

Three 12-month collaborative research feasibility projects that will look to exploit the properties of quantum physics have received more than £588,000 in grants from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. The rest of the funding has come from Lancaster University and commercial partners including Amethyst Research Ltd, Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global Ltd, IQE plc, and Oxford Instruments Nanotechnology Tools Ltd.

The research projects are:

• Project with Lancaster University, CST Global Ltd and IQE plc.
Researching the development of light-emitting devices using quantum ring nanostructures to provide a source for single photons quickly, cheaply and at room temperature. Single photon sources are needed to develop ‘quantum cryptography’ – which would ensure guaranteed secure digital communications.

• Project with Lancaster University and Oxford Instruments Nanotechnology Tools Ltd.
Developing the concept design for a portable, cost-effective, user-friendly ultra-low temperature environment for quantum devices. Many new quantum technologies will rely on ultra-low temperatures (close to absolute zero) to work. This device will be an enabler of other quantum technologies, such as higher resolution magnetic sensors that can be applied in a wide range of situations from environmental sensing to medical imaging.

• Project with Lancaster University, Amethyst Research Ltd and Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global Ltd.
To prototype and assess a newly conceived, potentially disruptive Single Photon detector technology. Quantum Infrared imaging and Quantum communication systems require photon detectors that are capable of registering single photons. This project will look at new materials to increase the range of infrared light that can be detected with single photon sensitivity.

The research projects fall within the work of Lancaster University’s Quantum Technology Centre.

Professor Yuri Pashkin, director of Lancaster University’s Quantum Technology Centre, said: “These collaborative research projects will significantly aid our understanding of technologies that will help deliver a revolutionary new era of secure digital communications as well as help to create devices that will enable other quantum technologies to radically transform our lives in areas such as medical imaging.

“Lancaster University is committed to working closely with industrial partners to unlock the exciting and transformative properties of quantum technologies and to support the national strategy to make the UK a world-leader in this field of physics.”

The Government has identified quantum technologies as a strategic area for UK investment.

Government describes quantum technologies as promising “a new generation of products with exciting and astounding properties that will affect our lives profoundly. They will have a major impact on the finance, defence, aerospace, energy and telecommunications sectors and have the potential to improve imaging and computing in ways that cannot be predicted.”

Paul Mason, chief scientific adviser and deputy director research at Innovate UK said: “Quantum technology has the potential to become a major global industry, vital to the UK economy. By working together – universities, companies, Innovate UK, Research Councils and others – we will help to deliver a new breed of commercial devices that harness the awesome power of quantum physics, with significant and far-reaching impact to UK business and ultimately, the general public.”

Businesses interested in collaborating with the centre and applying for grants for collaborative research projects can contact Dr Mark Rushforth by emailing m.rushforth@lancaster.ac.uk or by calling 07964921891.

More information about Lancaster University’s Quantum Technology Centre can be found by visiting http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/quantum-technology/