A consortium led by physicists at the University of Birmingham has been awarded a multi-million-pound UK Quantum Technology Hub, with a total value of £80 million, to explore technology to help industry.

The project, which includes the Universities of Glasgow, Nottingham, Southampton, Strathclyde and Sussex, has a total EPSRC, University and industry contribution exceeding £80 million to translate their work in quantum sensors into technology that could help industry solve many problems.

The national investment, announced by the previous Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark, totals £270 million for research into quantum technology across four hubs of scientists led by the Universities of Birmingham, Oxford, York and Glasgow.

Dementia research

By exploiting the extreme sensitivity of quantum sensors, physicists working with industry will be able to bring to the market place technology that will enable them to look accurately and non-destructively in many scenarios, from mapping pipework and cabling under the road surface before digging takes place and reducing disruption and traffic delays to monitoring water levels in aquifers in drought prone areas and providing a non-invasive way of measuring brain activity to further research into dementia.

These sensors are not just sensitive, but will be very quick: the ‘optical lattice’ clocks that could be built as a result of this technology will also be found in the increasingly fast high-frequency trading in financial markets, where the measurement of time to ascertain who bids first needs to be accurate.

Professor Kai Bongs, who leads the Birmingham consortium at the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: ‘This spooky property called ‘quantum superposition’, where an atom can be in two places at the same time, is now destined to become part of the everyday world thanks to the funding of our Quantum Technology Hub.’