LOWELL, Mass. - A UMass Lowell professor has won two U.S. Department of Energy grants totaling $1.8 million to fund research to spur advances in everything from information processing to our understanding of gravity and cosmic evolution.
Archana Kamal, an assistant professor in UMass Lowell's Department of Physics and Applied Physics, will use the Department of Energy grants to expand her research into the emerging field of quantum information science (QIS).
The first grant, worth $1.5 million, was awarded through the Department of Energy's Basic Energy Sciences program. It will enable Kamal, who is leading the project, and partners including researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Boulder Laboratories to develop quantum technologies that can ultimately form the foundation for the next generation of computing and information processing, as well as other innovative technologies.
The researchers will work on projects ranging from developing noise-resilient techniques for quantum computing to using quantum feedback for real-time error correction. One of the primary focuses will be to wield such approaches for generation and control of stable "entangled states" that form the foundation for several quantum information technologies. Entangled states are special quantum states in which the information is encoded or hidden in correlations between two or more systems, such that each system can access only partial information or none at all.
"Using an analogy put forward by Prof. John Preskill of Caltech, an entangled system can be thought of as a book full of information. An ordinary book can be read page by page. But in this quantum book, if you try to read each page individually, you get gibberish because the information is hidden in how the different pages are correlated to each other," explained Kamal. "Entangled states however are especially fragile in the face of decoherence, a phenomenon that can be viewed as the loss of information from a quantum system into the environment."
The Basic Energy Sciences grant will enable the team to develop and test protocols for generating entanglement that is stable and inherently robust against decoherence, a major obstacle in quantum computing.
"Preserving quantum correlations against decoherence remains one of the biggest challenges in the path toward scalable quantum computing, and the protocols developed under the DOE grant will provide a new method to overcome this problem," Kamal said.
The QIS research is expected to lead to new medical, national security and scientific applications and future quantum computers will eventually be able to solve large, highly complex problems beyond the capacity of today's most powerful supercomputers.
The second grant, worth about $360,000 and awarded through the Department of Energy's High-Energy Physics program, was given to Kamal and fellow UMass Lowell Assistant Prof. Nishant Agarwal, who is the lead on this project, as well as to collaborators from Penn State and UMass Boston. The aim of this program is to extend open quantum systems framework for tackling foundational questions about origins of the early universe, as well as apply quantum-information-theoretic tools for probing exotic gravitational phenomenon such as black holes.
A global innovator and visionary
Kamal leads the QUEST (Quantum Engineering Science and Technology) Group at UMass Lowell, which focuses on building quantum processors that can be engineered like classical computers, while intrinsically behaving quantum-mechanically like atoms. Her work has enabled noise-resilient artificial atoms called quantum bits or "qubits" (the basic unit of quantum information) that can encode and preserve data long enough for processing, as well as new measurement protocols that can read out, transmit and amplify quantum information with high efficiency.
"Our ultimate goal is to enable quantum technologies that can form the backbone of future quantum computers, which hold out the promise of offering unprecedented advantages over their classical counterparts," said Kamal, who was one of the MIT Technology Review's 2018 Innovators Under 35 in the "Visionaries" category.
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