We are on the cusp of a new information revolution – a quantum leap in technology – and the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo is leading the way. With the world’s largest concentration of researchers working to harness the forces of quantum mechanics, the institute stands to transform computing, communications and other technologies.
“We are learning to speak the language of the quantum realm – of atoms and electrons and molecules,” says IQC Executive Director Raymond Laflamme. “By controlling nature’s most fundamental forces, we can build incredible new technologies that will revolutionize how we process, store, share and understand information.”
Modern computers function according to the classical laws of physics, but a new model is emerging that is instead governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, which function at the atomic scale. Microchips have been steadily approaching this scale for more than 50 years and computers that function according to the laws of quantum mechanics promise to vastly outperform their classical counterparts.
While practical quantum computers are still years away from the marketplace, research into quantum cryptography is leading to a wave of spinoff companies. Quantum technologies, such as powerful sensors that can be used for environmentally sustainable oil exploration and materials design, are emerging from IQC, and quantum cryptography is being effectively used to ensure perfect security in bank transfers and election results. IQC scientists are also starting to create global quantum communications networks protected by the security of quantum cryptography.
Given Canada’s history of leadership in telecommunications, many predict that quantum information might just be this country’s next big industry. With a faculty of 17 world-leading faculty members and more than 100 students and post-doctoral fellows, research at IQC is at the forefront of this new and exciting branch of science and technology.
Canada’s quantum leaders, including Raymond Laflamme, will be participating at this week’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, starting with the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Dialogues at UBC Robson Square, tonight (February 15th) at 6:00 p.m.