What is the QuCenDIEM Centre of Excellence at IITM?

Every major stage of human development has been largely defined by the materials we have managed to harness and exploit. From the Stone age, to the Bronze and eventually Iron age, India has been at the forefront of human civilization and development. However, with the advent of Silicon, India fell behind. Lack of infrastructure, knowledge and funding put India out of the global silicon competition. With the inevitability of the quantum age, India eyes an opportunity to once again become a global leader and be at the cusp of the Quantum Age.

Much like semiconductors and now artificial intelligence, quantum is projected to play a disruptive role in the industry. With computational speeds and sophistication never seen before, quantum pushes the boundaries of development of sensors, MRIs, GPS, and navigation.

The proposed center at IIT Madras aims to address the challenges in the development of quantum technology, more specifically the hardware and materials that go into the production of raw materials, chips and finished devices. Through a key focus on boron-doped diamond for superconducting qubits, and nitrogen-vacancies in diamond for magnetic spectroscopy, the center also looks at viable emergent technologies like Kitaev magnets and novel rare-earth based Heusler phase topological insulators.

By bridging the gap between science and technology, the program aims to contribute to development of quantum technology through its objectives:

  • Development of hardware using high quality lab grown diamonds as well as novel ‘emergent materials’
  • Characterization of such materials as well as analysis of their quantum measurements.
  • Development of devices that make use of such materials, going from raw material to chip level and eventually deriving a finished product.

Advancements made in experimental techniques have made it possible for the team to study and control quantum states of materials with precision. Quantum defects in materials like diamonds and SiC exhibit unique optical land spin properties that make them promising candidates for application in various quantum avenues. For example, nitrogen-vacancies (NV) in diamonds allow diamonds to exhibit special optical and magnetic properties. Through precise optical measurements of a diamond’s defection in response to a substance around it, high precision nano-scale MRI machines are being discussed in the project. Capable of analysis of biological as well as physical samples, the machine is proposed to offer unprecedented accuracy and sensitivity.

Understanding the quantum realm at its fundamental level is at the forefront of research being done at the center. With collaboration between physical theorists and experimental scientists, electrical engineers, material scientists and even mechanical engineers, the CoE is a melting pot of expertise. The center is still in its initial stages of development and is currently exploring the feasibility of emergent material development. Eventually it aims to move to a phase of production where it can produce materials at scale, more economically and even move towards commercialization.

Through industry collaboration it hopes to incubate startups in this novel field. Currently it jointly performs research with leaders across the world, from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore all the way to University of California, Santa Barbara and University of Florida, USA. It works with ISRO, Carborundum Universal Ltd, and more for instrumentation and testing. Finally, through ongoing programs, courses and seminars, the center pushes for global exposure and acceptance of quantum.