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51st IFF Spring School 2020: "Quantum Technology"

23rd March 2020   -   3rd April 2020
Forschungszentrum Jlich, Germany


Imagine what we would know - or better: would not know - about the structure and dynamics of microscopic systems if scientists such as Albert Einstein (Nobel Prize 1921), Niels Bohr (Nobel Prize 1922), Werner Heisenberg (Nobel Prize 1932), Erwin Schrödinger, Paul Dirac (Nobel Prize 1933) and many others would not have imagined and formalised quantum mechanics. This theory provided the understanding of fundamental aspects of the interaction between matter and radiation to the level needed to make atoms work for us in new and most remarkable ways. It heralded the first quantum revolution which began with the discovery of the transistor (Nobel Prize 1956 to William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain) and the laser (Nobel Prize 1964 to Charles Townes, Nicolay Basov and Aleksandr Prokhorov). Many of the amenities we have become accustomed to (for example, computers, smartphones, GPS, solid-state light) are based on these technologies. Today, our ability to use previously untapped quantum effects in customised systems and materials is paving the way for a second revolution. With quantum theory now fully established, we are required to look at the world in a fundamentally new way: objects can be in different states at the same time (superposition) and can be deeply connected without any direct physical interaction (entanglement). There are many transformative applications, varying from products with a relatively short time to market through to revolutionary new technologies that may require more than a decade of research and development. Quantum computers are expected to be able to solve in a few days, problems that are unsolvable by the supercomputers of today and tomorrow. This, in turn, will seed breakthroughs in the design of chemical processes, new materials, such as higher temperature superconductors, and new paradigms in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Based on quantum coherence, data can be protected in a completely secure way that makes eavesdropping impossible. Given the explosive growth of cybercrime and espionage, this is a highly strategic capability. Quantum technologies will also give rise to simulation techniques well beyond current capabilities for material and chemical synthesis, and to clocks and sensors with unprecedented sensitivity and accuracy, with potential impact for navigation, the synchronisation of future smart networks and medical diagnostics.