Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Quantum projects launched to solve universe’s mysteries

  • University of Warwick Department of Physics involved in two new projects funded by UK Research and Innovation

Researchers will use cutting-edge quantum technologies to transform our understanding of the universe and answer key questions such as the nature of dark matter and black holes.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is supporting seven projects with a £31 million investment, including two involving the University of Warwick, to demonstrate how quantum technologies could solve some of the greatest mysteries in fundamental physics.

Just as quantum computing promises to revolutionise traditional computing, technologies such as quantum sensors have the potential to radically change our approach to understanding our universe.

In ‘Quantum-enhanced interferometry for New Physics’ involving Dr Animesh Datta of the University of Warwick, researchers led by Cardiff University aim to develop novel interferometers (devices capable of measuring the tiniest of length fluctuations through interference of light) to search for dark matter and for quantum aspects of space time. The project has received funding of £4 million.

Dr Datta, of the University’s Department of Physics, said: "This project will seek experimental signatures of hypothesised particles of Nature such as dark matter and hypothesised theories such as quantum aspects of gravity. There is as yet no such evidence. Warwick’s work will focus on theoretically designing such novel experiments using our expertise in quantum information science.”

Dr Yorck Ramachers and colleagues from the University of Warwick Department of Physics will be involved in ‘Determination of Absolute Neutrino Mass using Quantum Technologies’ led by University College London, which has received funding of £3.8 million. The project aims to harness recent breakthroughs in quantum technologies to solve one of the most important outstanding challenges in particle physics – determining the absolute mass of neutrinos.

Dr Ramachers said: “The measurement of the absolute neutrino mass would lead to significant progress in fundamental particle physics and cosmology related to the origin of matter and evolution of the Universe. This project will drive quantum technologies from applied physics research to advance independent fundamental physics in an interdisciplinary collaboration. Warwick's role in this project is to bridge fundamental neutrino physics and plasma physics (as a Warwick internal collaboration, a first for Warwick) to quantum technologies developed by collaborators. As such, this project opens a new strategic direction for the particle physics group at Warwick with the potential for new collaborative projects between applied quantum technology research and fundamental physics interests.”

The projects are supported through the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics programme, delivered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund. The programme is part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme.

Professor Mark Thomson, Executive Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said:

"STFC is proud to support these projects that utilise cutting-edge quantum technologies for novel and exciting research into fundamental physics.

“Major scientific discoveries often arise from the application of new technologies and techniques. With the application of emerging quantum technologies, I believe we have an opportunity to change the way we search for answers to some of the biggest mysteries of the universe. These include exploring what dark matter is made of, finding the absolute mass of neutrinos and establishing how quantum mechanics fits with Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“I believe strongly that this exciting new research programme will enable the UK to take the lead in a new way of exploring profound questions in fundamental physics.”

Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and UKRI sponsor for Quantum Technologies, said:

“The National Quantum Technologies Programme has successfully accelerated the first wave of quantum technologies to a maturity where they can be used to make advances in both fundamental science and industrial applications.

“The investments UKRI is making through the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics programme allows us to bring together the expertise of EPSRC and STFC to apply the latest advances in quantum science and technology to explore, and answer, long-standing research questions in fundamental physics. This is a hugely exciting programme and we look forward to delivering these projects and funding further work in this area as well as exploring opportunities for exploiting quantum technologies with other UKRI partners.”

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

“As we build back better from the pandemic, it’s critical that we throw our weight behind new transformative technologies, such as quantum, that could help to unearth new scientific discoveries and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower.

“Today’s funding will enable some of the UK’s most ambitious quantum researchers to develop state of art technologies that could help us solve important unanswered questions about our universe, from proving Einstein’s theory of relativity to understanding the mysterious behaviour of black holes.”

END

Notes to editors:

Further information:

The Strategic Priorities Fund is an £830 million investment in multi- and interdisciplinary research across 34 themes.

It is funded through the government’s National Productivity Investment Fund and managed by UK Research and Innovation.

The fund aims to:

• increase high-quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation

• ensure UKRI investment links up effectively with government research and innovation priorities

• respond to strategic priorities and opportunities

The National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) was established in 2014 by the partners (EPSRC, STFC, IUK, Dstl, MoD, NPL, BEIS, GCHQ, NCSC2) to make the UK a global leader in the development and commercialisation of quantum technologies. World class research and dynamic innovation, as the Government’s R&D Roadmap stresses, are part of an interconnected system. The NQTP’s achievements to-date have been enabled by the coherent approach which brings this interconnected system together. NQTP has ambition to grow and evolve research and technology development activities within the programme to continue to ensure that the UK has a balanced portfolio, is flexible and open, so that promising quantum technologies continue to emerge.

The NQTP is set to invest £1billion of public and private sector funds over its ten-year lifetime.

Summaries of the projects:

Quantum-enhanced interferometry for New Physics

Led by: Professor Hartmut Grote, Cardiff University

Partners: Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Warwick

UKRI funding: £4 million

The researchers aim to develop novel interferometers (devices capable of measuring the tiniest of length fluctuations through interference of light) to search for dark matter and for quantum aspects of space time. Quantum technologies such as squeezed light and single photon detection will be used to achieve unprecedented sensitivity. The nature of dark matter is unknown today, and if signature of a quantization of space time or novel gravity theories could be found, this would profoundly inform the long-sought-for unification of quantum physics and gravity theory.

Determination of Absolute Neutrino Mass using Quantum Technologies

Led by: Professor Ruben Saakyan, UCL

Partners: National Physical Laboratory, Universities of Cambridge, Swansea and Warwick

UKRI funding: £3.8 million

The project aims to harness recent breakthroughs in quantum technologies to solve one of the most important outstanding challenges in particle physics – determining the absolute mass of neutrinos. One of the universe’s most abundant particles neutrinos are a byproduct of nuclear fusion within stars, therefore being key to our understanding of the processes within stars and the makeup of the universe. Moreover, knowing the value of the neutrino mass is critical to our understanding of the origin of matter and evolution of the universe. They are poorly understood however, and the researchers aim to develop pioneering new spectroscopy technology capable to precisely measure the mass of this elusive but important particle.

Summaries for all funded projects are available at: https://www.ukri.org/news/quantum-projects-launched-to-solve-the-universes-mysteries/

13 January 2021

University of Warwick press office contact:

Peter Thorley

Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics) | Press & Media Relations | University of Warwick
Email: peter.thorley@warwick.ac.uk 

Mob: +44 (0) 7824 540863