Quantum project launched to solve dark matter mysteries

University of Strathclyde researchers are partners in a project which will use cutting-edge quantum technologies to transform understanding of the universe and answer key questions on the nature of dark matter.

The international Quantum Interferometry (QI) collaboration aims to search for dark matter and for quantum aspects of space-time with quantum technologies.

The project will build four table-top experiments which will enable the exploration of new parameter spaces of interaction between photons and dark matter. It will also seek answers to a long-standing research question: how can gravity be united with the other fundamental forces?

The consortium is led by the University of Cardiff and also includes the Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow and Warwick in the UK, MIT, Caltech, NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and Fermilab in the US and DESY and AEI Hannover in Germany.

“The project is one of seven to have received funding through a £31 million investment by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), to demonstrate how quantum technologies could solve some of the greatest mysteries in fundamental physics.”

Professor Stuart Reid, Head of Strathclyde’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, is the University’s lead in QI. He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work with a number of leading researchers across the UK to answer key questions about the Universe we live in.

“This is the first UKRI funded project to utilise the new Centre for Extreme Performance Optical Coatings (EPOC) within the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), alongside the existing optical coating manufacturing and characterisation capabilities located within the Department Biomedical Engineering. We are excited to see this capability be used for enabling breakthrough quantum technologies.”

The QI project is linked to two UK National Quantum Hubs and will apply state-of-the-art technologies, including optical cavities, quantum states of light, transition-edge sensors, and extreme-performance optical coatings, to a broad class of fundamental physics problems.

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

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.”

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.

The University of Strathclyde is the only academic institution that has been a partner in all four EPSRC funded Quantum Technology Hubs in both phases of funding. The Hubs are in: Sensing and Timing; Quantum Enhanced Imaging; Quantum Computing and Simulation, and Quantum Communications Technologies.