Aalto University research project on quantum technology awarded a seven-figure grant


The European Research Council has awarded Docent Mikko Möttönen the two-million-euro Consolidator Grant for a five-year research project.


The purpose of the project Quantum Environment Engineering for Steered Systems (QUESS) is to develop methods for the real-time control of energy loss in quantum-mechanical devices, which could enable practical applications of quantum technology. These applications include quantum computers and radiation sensors. In the future, quantum computers can potentially be used for material and drug design, as well as to radically improve the efficiency of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

"Supraconducting electric circuits have made it possible to build elementary quantum computers. Progress has been made in the fault tolerance of the devices, and a quantum annealer based on superconducting quantum bits is already commercially available. Even so, there are many basic issues related to quantum computing that we have yet to figure out, such as the accurate initialization of quantum bits, the extreme accuracy of logic operations, and the power consumption at the quantum level", Mikko Möttönen describes the challenges related to the project.

A standard digital bit is always 0 or 1. A quantum bit, i.e., a qubit, is always operated with the precision of single quantum-mechanical energy states, which makes values between 0 and 1 possible. On the other hand, these states are very sensitive to external disturbance.

If the qubits are well isolated from their environment, their quantum information is preserved for long time. Consequently however,  the qubits release energy away very slowly and therefore naturally remain hot. The cooling of the quantum state must be turned on before the computation to reset the quantum memory and turned off thereafter to avoid errors during computation. It is also important to know how much energy the logic operations on the qubits consume during the computation. Excess energy must be eliminated so that the overheating of devices can be avoided.

"If we succeed in solving these key issues that are necessary for building an efficient large-scale quantum computer, we will open a door for a major quantum revolution," he continues.

This is the second personal European grant Doc. Möttönen has been awarded for his research. The European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grants are awarded to top-level researchers to help them strengthen their research team and to build a successful career in Europe. The QUESS project will be launched in the beginning of 2017. At the moment, Doc. Möttönen is working on a research project financed with the ERC Starting Grant.

"I combined the latest developments in the field of superconducting quantum computers with the methods that I learned in the course of many years at the Low Temperature Laboratory. This convinced the ERC panellists that I am doing something new and important", Möttönen says.

Doc. Möttönen has achieved significant results in the course of his research in the field of quantum phenomena. The most recent of these are experimentally and theoretically verified quantum knots and monopolies, as well as quantum-limited heat transfer.

Further information:

Mikko Möttönen, Docent, Dr.
Aalto University
Department of Applied Physics
m. +358505940950

Read more about Möttönen’s research:

New invention revolutionises heat transport

Quantum knots are real

Quantum-mechanical monopoles discovered