Quantum physics in the coolest place on Earth

1 July 2019 11:00
Nowhere else in the world can offer such a scale and spectrum of "ultra-clean" environments, custom made by scientists working with designers.

A scientific laboratory – dubbed the quietest place on earth and colder than deep space – will be showcased at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (1-7 July 2019) giving visitors the chance to see, hear and feel how the world behaves at quantum level.

‘Isolab’ at Lancaster University eliminates all external mechanical, acoustic and electrical noise, creating an ‘ultra-clean’ environment to advance research in quantum technology.

Scientists at the forefront of this ground-breaking research will be on hand at the exhibition to lead visitors through exciting concepts behind atomic resolution imaging, quantum optics and ultra-low temperature physics.

Lead researcher, Dr Benjamin Robinson, said: “From tiny structures in computer processors to the quality of mobile phone screens, advances in nanotechnology and quantum physics underpin much of our modern world.

“Increasingly, however, we find that the main challenge we face in realising the most exciting future applications is our ability to accurately measure the fundamental properties of materials and device down to the single atom scale.

“Based on 30 years of state-of-the-art research at Lancaster University we push the limits of measurement by eliminating external noise.”

Isolab is built from heavy concrete blocks which sit on deep foundations floating on independently-controlled air springs, isolating measurements from ground vibrations. Metal shielding blocks wireless signals and acoustic padding deadens sound. The entire building sits inside a 350-ton concrete tank to drastically reduce any vibration, noise and electromagnetic disturbance. Even people have been removed, with scientists conducting their experiments remotely.

IsoLab is one of the key facilities underpinning the recently awarded €9.8 million European Microkelvin Platform of 17 leading partners in Europe in the field of ultralow temperature physics and technology, where Lancaster University is world leading. Central to this four year project is the provision of access for experimental researchers to the unique low temperature infrastructure which will drive forward progress in the the study of new phenomena, new materials and new devices.

The lab is also where scientists have created a family of simple, practical, scalable security devices based on state-of-the art quantum technologies. Commercialised by spinout company Quantum Base, these including unclonable identity tags (Q-ID®) and the first practical quantum random number generator (Q-RAND®).

Visitors to the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition will be able to explore how some of the most sensitive experiments in the world are performed through hands-on activities and working demos which include:

·        Testing your ability to detect single atoms with an model atomic force microscope

·        Seeing how vibrations affect a levitating model superconductor

·        Seeing how scientists are creating new technology with quantum mechanics.