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New funding given to help solve the mysteries of the universe

New funding given to help solve the mysteries of the universe

  • Date13 January 2021

Researchers will use cutting-edge quantum technologies to transform our understanding of the universe and answer key questions such as the nature of dark matter and black holes.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is supporting seven projects, of which Royal Holloway is part of one, with a £31 million investment to be shared between the projects, to demonstrate how quantum technologies could solve some of the greatest mysteries in fundamental physics.

Just as quantum computing promises to revolutionise traditional computing, technologies such as quantum sensors have the potential to radically change our approach to understanding our universe.

For example, the team led by Royal Holloway will develop new quantum sensors which can be used to search for dark matter, the mysterious matter thought to make up most of the universe and influence how galaxies form.

Professor Phil Meeson, from the Department of Physics at the university, said: “We are very excited to be part of the Quantum Sensors for the Hidden Sector project, led by Sheffield University.

“Royal Holloway and UKRI have recently invested heavily in SuperFab, a world-class nanofabrication facility dedicated to the creation of superconducting quantum devices and technology.

“Our related projects to design and create quantum limited microwave amplifiers form part of our research into superconducting quantum computing and the UK’s National Quantum Technology programme. This work now strongly underpins the development of the novel quantum limited detectors needed in this new project.

“In addition, our theoretical physics expertise and our experience in ultra-high field superconducting magnets lends support to the project overall and to the development by the consortium of future advanced hidden sector detectors in the UK.

“Our overall aim, of course, is to participate in the discovery of new and fundamental physics and to understand better how the universe works.”

The projects are supported through the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics programme, delivered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund. The programme is part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme.

Professor Mark Thomson, Executive Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said: "STFC is proud to support these projects that utilise cutting-edge quantum technologies for novel and exciting research into fundamental physics.

“Major scientific discoveries often arise from the application of new technologies and techniques. With the application of emerging quantum technologies, I believe we have an opportunity to change the way we search for answers to some of the biggest mysteries of the universe. These include exploring what dark matter is made of, finding the absolute mass of neutrinos and establishing how quantum mechanics fits with Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“I believe strongly that this exciting new research programme will enable the UK to take the lead in a new way of exploring profound questions in fundamental physics.”

Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and UKRI sponsor for Quantum Technologies, said: “The National Quantum Technologies Programme has successfully accelerated the first wave of quantum technologies to a maturity where they can be used to make advances in both fundamental science and industrial applications.

“The investments UKRI is making through the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics programme allows us to bring together the expertise of EPSRC and STFC to apply the latest advances in quantum science and technology to explore, and answer, long-standing research questions in fundamental physics.

“This is a hugely exciting programme and we look forward to delivering these projects and funding further work in this area as well as exploring opportunities for exploiting quantum technologies with other UKRI partners.”

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