All questions answered by researcher Hannes Hübel from the Austrian Institute Of Technology, Austria.
What do you want to achieve in this project?
We want to develop quantum devices for the mass market, based on small, cheap, robust and reliable systems. To make the second quantum revolution a success, devices need the same level of integration that microelectronic systems have achieved. UNIQORN’s mission is therefore to extend the existing photonic integration technology to accommodate quantum applications, which often have very stringent requirements and need specialised components.
We will extend the functionality of the basic components to realise complex devices for quantum communication, which are presently found on metre-size breadboards, on millimetre-size chips. Finally, field trials will be performed to demonstrate the readiness of our technology.
How will European citizens benefit from this project, both from the technology developments it accomplishes as well as the basic science breakthroughs it may achieve?
The outcomes of the project will provide the building blocks for quantum devices that can be used in home appliances and maybe even in smart phones one day. By offering cost-optimised quantum technology, European citizens will have personal access to this new technology.
The project addresses some of the burning societal challenges such as secure societies, critical infrastructure and e-health. For example, the quantum applications we envisage to demonstrate with our system-on-chip implementations will allow highly secure encryption, secure and privacy-protecting database searches. For the more distant goal of a quantum internet, we will demonstrate a quantum-router for on-demand entanglement distribution in optical-fibre networks.
Why is the Quantum Flagship important and why did you choose to become part of it?
The Quantum Flagship initiative is kick-starting the whole technical development of quantum applications. In the last decade, most research funding went into exploring quantum effects in the laboratory, but now with the Flagship there is a dedicated roadmap to develop the technology and finally products for the mass-market based on quantum effects. Focusing on the technological aspect was also an important decision to bring new players to the table, like in our case the photonic integration community. To build systems for real quantum applications requires a wide spectrum of expertise and multidisciplinary like in UNIQORN and is the key to success.
How do you see the advancement of quantum technologies in the near future and what would be your ultimate dream in the long run?
There will be tremendous advances soon; you just have to look at the increase in the number of qubits for quantum computing in the last years. For quantum communications, I forecast many integrated components such as single- and entangled-photon sources as well as several Quantum Key Distribution satellites in the sky within the next 5 years. I think it will get very interesting in the second part of the Flagship. At the beginning the pillars will proceed pretty much independently but in a couple of years’ time, I expect a confluence of outcomes to create a kind of proto Quantum-Internet where we can connect several quantum devices from the communication, computing and sensing pillars together and explore new types of applications and use-cases.