A research team from UCLA, USC, Caltech and Harvard, led by Wesley Campbell, UCLA associate professor of physics, has been awarded a three-year $2.7 million U.S. Department of Energy Quantum Information Science Research Award. The emerging, multidisciplinary field of quantum information science is expected to lay the foundation for the next generation of computing and information processing, as well as many other innovative technologies.

Quantum computers, once fully developed, will be capable of solving certain large, extremely complex problems that are beyond the capacity of today’s most powerful supercomputers. Among other applications, quantum systems hold the promise of potentially exquisitely sensitive sensors, with a variety of possible medical, national security and scientific applications.

With this funding, faculty in chemistry and physics will develop and study “molecules functionalized with optical cycling centers,” accelerating research into next-generation chemical systems for quantum information storage and processing.

“Typically, when a molecule absorbs energy in the form of light, it will release this energy by emitting heat and light of a different color it absorbed, losing information about its original coherent state,” Campbell said. “Recently, a special class of functional groups was discovered that absorb and emit the exact same color, a property that allows the repetition of this cycle many times. The multi-institution team is developing new molecules with these functional groups and using their optical cycling properties to perform quantum information storage, processing and retrieval from individual/networks of molecules. The ability to use molecules instead of atoms enables quantum logic protocols that could allow quantum information transport and processing that is beyond the current state of the art.”

The primary investigators of this grant are Campbell; Eric Hudson, UCLA professor of physics; Justin Caram, co-principal investigator and UCLA assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Anastassia Alexandrova, UCLA associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Anna Krylov of USC; John Doyle of Harvard; and Nick Hutzler of Caltech.

The grant to the UCLA-led team was one of 27 grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to develop new quantum materials. The awards were made in conjunction with the White House Summit on Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Information Science.