Berkeley Lab

Keynote Address: Abandoning perfection for quantum technologies

David Awschalom, professor of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, gave a humorous spin on quantum mechanics during his keynote address (no pun intended!). From starting his talk with a Feynman quote – “It is safe to say that nobody understands quantum mechanics” – to joking about how his students can’t use cell phones in the lab because it will affect their measurements, to making fun of anyone who has paid money for a perfect diamond, Awschalom’s lecture made quantum information as entertaining as it was fascinating. The main takeaway was in the power of quantum scaling: while a classical computer requires double the amount of transistors for doubled processing power, a quantum computer requires the addition of only one qubit. In addition, Awschalom’s group is taking advantage of the lack of perfection in semiconductor materials by using defects as spin qubits. While Awschalom’s talk ended with suggestions for applications of quantum computing, such as security through quantum communication or exploring physical and biological systems with quantum sensing, “The most exciting thing,” he concludes, “is that we really don’t know.”