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Accelerating quantum materials research with Microsoft’s new Copenhagen lab

Microsoft is pleased to announce the recent opening of our new Quantum Materials Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark, on September 21. We have high expectations for the new lab. It’s where the heart of our quantum computer—the topological qubit—will be developed under the direction of Scientific Director Peter Krogstrup.

Reporting to Krogstrup is a team of skilled mechanical engineers, materials scientists, and quantum physicists. Together, they’re synthesizing ultra-clean quantum crystals, the building blocks of future quantum computers. The Copenhagen lab will supply these crystals to Microsoft Quantum labs located in Delft, the Netherlands; Sydney, Australia; Santa Barbara, California; and other locations.

Adults and children congregating outside the the glass walls of the Quantum Materials Lab

Building on a scientific tradition

It’s fitting that Copenhagen should host this groundbreaking new lab. After all, it was Danish physicist Hans Christian Oersted who in 1820 discovered the link between electricity and magnetism—a breakthrough that in time helped lead to the use of electricity to run our world. Another Danish scientist, Niels Bohr, received a Nobel prize in physics in 1922 for his work on quantum theory. Bohr later founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen. Our new quantum lab will lead to discoveries that are equally groundbreaking.

Given that people such as Oersted and Bohr are household names in Denmark—with streets and parks named for them—it wasn’t surprising that the opening of our new lab was a newsworthy event. Danish Minister of Higher Education and Science Tommy Ahlers was among those attending, and later joked on Twitter about a TV interview he gave: “Everything was going fine until they asked me to explain the physics behind quantum computing!”

Materials scientists using state of the art lab equipment to synthesize quantum crystals

Introducing quantum computing to a broader public

Child observing the Microsoft Quantum team at workBeyond research and development, another role for the new Copenhagen lab is to help educate the public on the field of quantum computing. It’s been designed such that passersby, families with children, students, and others can see researchers at work behind large glass windows creating materials that will make scalable quantum computing possible. The lab’s neighbor is the Technical University of Denmark, where half of Denmark’s engineers are trained. Students there are finding inspiration in the Microsoft lab and charting their own futures around quantum computing.

The Microsoft Quantum Materials Lab’s impressive array of scientific equipment speaks to the exciting research it’s tackling. One of the problems researchers there will investigate is how to create quantum states that are more easily interpreted. “Quantum states are extremely fragile and therefore very difficult to maintain and read,” lab director Krogstrup says. “And quantum materials must be perfect. That means not one atom can lie in the wrong place—literally. This is among the things we need to do more research in.”

Quantum computing is a complex concept and can be a challenge for people to wrap their heads around. But the potential of the field is clear—creating computers far more powerful than anything available today, with the ability to solve some of the most difficult computing problems imaginable. We look forward to delivering that reality with the Quantum Materials Lab.

Updated October 19th, 2018: Check out this video of the grand opening of the Microsoft Quantum Materials Lab:

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