Dartmouth, Brown Researchers to Explore Materials, Matter States for Quantum Technologies

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NSF-funded study aims to develop a fundamental understanding of quantum systems.


HANOVER, N.H. – September 25, 2019 – A team of researchers from Dartmouth College and Brown University have received a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to research the materials and exotic quantum states that make quantum technologies possible.

In the quantum world, particles can behave as if they are in more than one state at a given time. They can also influence each other’s behavior even if they are far away in space. By relying on these often peculiar rules that govern the behavior of individual particles, quantum technologies have the potential to spur revolutions in computing, sensing, cryptography and beyond.

Quantum computers can process information in new ways, potentially performing calculations far beyond the reach of even the fastest of today’s supercomputers. Quantum sensors far more powerful than those used today could be useful in applications ranging from medicine to seismology. And quantum cryptography could lead to intrinsically secure communication.

For all the promise, however, there are obstacles to overcome before these quantum technologies deliver their full potential. One problem is that quantum states are extremely fragile — the slightest disturbance can destroy them. And scientists still don’t fully understand how to model the complex correlations between particles in quantum systems. Those microscopic correlations are critically important, because they can ultimately determine the properties of a material at the macroscopic scale.

Under the NSF grant, the joint team will use a novel approach in which today’s small quantum computers are combined with large-scale classical computing resources to study quantum materials and complex quantum states in microscopic detail. Experimental studies of existing materials will be combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to inform the design of new materials, whose properties depend on correlated quantum states that are not so fragile.

The Dartmouth team is led by experimentalist Chandrasekhar Ramanathan and theorist James Whitfield. The team also includes faculty members in quantum physics and computer science, Lorenza Viola and Daniel Rockmore.

Vesna Mitrović, a professor of physics at Brown and the principal investigator on the grant, will work with Brown theory faculty Dima Feldman and Brad Marston.

“By leveraging our complementary expertise — quantum materials at Brown and quantum information science at Dartmouth — the grant will enable the creation of a New England center of excellence at the nexus of quantum and data sciences, both areas of national priority for science and technology development,” said  Ramanathan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy. “This collaboration will allow us to tackle some of the hard problems that stand in the way of deploying quantum technologies.”

“We’re trying to understand these quantum materials and complex quantum states on a fundamental level that enables us to control and manipulate them in useful ways,” said Mitrović, an expert in using nuclear magnetic resonance to probe quantum states of materials. “This new understanding will help us to identify which of these materials or states is useful for which applications, which in turn will help us to move quantum technology forward.”

The combination of quantum information science and data science developed by this research could have broad impacts that benefit society, the researchers believe. 

The grant is part of NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) designed to promote scientific progress nationwide (Grant No. 1921199). The grant will fund efforts in Rhode Island and New Hampshire to attract investment, cultivate research talent and create new data science training programs.




David Hirsch