A quantum materials research effort highlighted in a White House announcement last week is expanding to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Federal officials last Tuesday announced a workforce development strategy to go hand in hand with an already ongoing push to develop quantum materials and devices, considered a new generation of computing and communications technology.
Part of the research effort included a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation announced last year to establish the MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and Montana State University. Researchers are working to make materials formed by bonding a single atomic layer more efficiently.
Last week, the White House announced a new $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the MonArk project.
UA-Pine Bluff, a historically black university, and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are now part of the Arkansas-Montana-South Dakota 2D Quantum Photonics Alliance.
In physics, photonics is about harnessing the properties of light, specifically in a way that allows the transmission of information. A photon is often referred to as an elementary particle, which means that it cannot be broken down into smaller components.
Tomasz Durakiewicz, a project manager at the National Science Foundation, said in a statement that UA-Pine Bluff “will primarily take responsibility for developing efficient and fast devices capable of transmitting and processing quantum information using light.”
Sanjay Behura, a UAPB assistant professor of physics and mathematics, said a postdoc, about six undergraduates and a graduate student will participate in the on-campus research effort he will lead over the next four years.
The project “will significantly expand career opportunities for UAPB graduate and undergraduate students,” Behura said in a statement.
The National Science and Technology Council’s report on the quantum information science and technology workforce, released last week, notes that “due to the complex and interdisciplinary nature of the work, the workforce landscape is difficult to assess.”
However, the report noted that, based on available information, “there appears to be a shortage of talent at all levels”.
Hugh Churchill, associate professor of physics at UA-Fayetteville and associate director of the MonArk project, has described quantum mechanics as the branch of physics that helps explain how the physical world works when objects are very small, temperatures are very are cold or The time scale studied is very short.
Harnessing this science has led to work on technologies like quantum computing, which show promise for tackling problems that current computing technology has proven difficult, Churchill said.
“Within MonArk, we are developing the ability to rapidly create and test two-dimensional quantum material devices,” Churchill said in an email last week.
With the project expanding, “the idea here is to apply this capability to quantum photonics devices, which we believe is a quantum technology that could find commercial application in the near future and that goes particularly well with the strengths of 2D materials. “
Durakiewicz said that over the course of the project, UA-Pine Bluff will “build the technical capability to detect even single photons, building on existing local expertise, and will provide a broad student population that may not otherwise have exposure to the field. Access to the latest quantum technology.”