Giant step towards the quantum revolution

02 Mar 2015 09:00:00.000


A University of Nottingham physicist has won a major European grant to uncover more secrets of the mind-bending world of quantum matter.


Dr Gerardo Adesso will use the 1.35M Euro Starting Grant from the European Research Council to investigate new and original manifestations of quantum mechanics. The work could speed up the development of the quantum technologies of the future.


Scientists have known for the past century that the quantum world of molecular, atomic and subatomic particles operates very differently to the macroscopic world of objects and forces in the universe. While originally considered paradoxical, quantum effects such as coherence *and entanglement ** are already being harnessed by scientists as resources for breakthrough technologies like quantum computers, yet the quantum industrial revolution has still not properly begun.

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Looking in the right places

Dr Adesso’s project challenges whether quantum research has been harvesting quantum resources in the right place and conditions. Traditionally it is thought the best environment is an isolated, static and temperature-controlled one but newly obtained evidence purports that highly noisy and complex systems and environments previously disregarded as unlikely sources, could in fact offer up novel and useful quantum effects.

Dr Adesso, Associate Professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences, said: “The project is deeply driven by a scientific curiosity to understand the ultimate regime of validity of quantum mechanics. Thanks to this ERC grant I can assemble a team to investigate such foundational questions as well as to deliver results of practical relevance for quantum information technologies, including optimal strategies for quantum communication, metrology and thermal engineering.


“The ERC funding is crucial for me to bring forward a blue-sky type of research, whereas national funding at the moment is investing massively in immediate commercialisation of current quantum technologies. I believe we still need to advance the fundamental aspects. Only by learning as much as possible about ‘quantumness’, about what genuinely makes quantum technologies more powerful than classical ones, and under which conditions such advantages can be sustained, we will be able to trigger the long-awaited quantum industrial revolution. In the next five years I wish to contribute primarily to this exciting endeavour.”

Harmony from quantum discord

Professor Ian Dryden, Head of the School of Mathematical Sciences, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Dr Gerardo Adesso has been awarded this prestigious grant. Dr Adesso's high-quality research into quantum information science has helped to put The University of Nottingham at the leading edge of the discipline. His novel theoretical work has great promise for the development of future quantum technologies, like the superfast computers of tomorrow.”


Dr Adesso’s group at The University of Nottingham has already challenged the established paradigm on quantum correlations, identifying and interpreting (by both theory and experiment) novel versatile resources that yield advantages in quantum information processing, such as quantum discord.


The new research will try to formally characterise all types of quantum correlations, within a hierarchy dictated by their usefulness as resources, with a long-term goal to establish a universal framework to reveal and exploit quantum enhancements in complex systems, including physical, engineered, natural, biological and social phenomena, inspired from last-century cybernetics.

* coherence: The ability of a quantum system to display superposition and interference phenomena.

** entanglement: The phenomenon whereby the quantum state of two or more particles cannot be separated into individual states for each particle, even though they are spatially separated or not physically connected. Measurements performed on one particle seem to instantaneously affect the second particle entangled with it. Entanglement is a resource for quantum communication, e.g. quantum teleportation, and quantum cryptography.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers, in the top 10 for student experience according to the Times Higher Education and winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the THE Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top one per cent of universities by the QS World University Rankings, and 8th in the UK by research power according to REF 2014.

The University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC) is holding events throughout 2015 to celebrate 15 years as a pioneer of transnational education. Based in Semenyih, UMNC was established as the UK's first overseas campus in Malaysia and one of the first world-wide.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

European Research Council

Set up in 2007 by the EU, the European Research Council is the first European funding organisation for frontier research. The ERC operates according to an 'investigator-driven', or 'bottom-up', approach, allowing researchers to identify new opportunities in any field of research, without thematic priorities. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age to run five-year projects based in Europe. Since its launch, the ERC has funded over 4,500 researchers. Under Horizon 2020, the new EU research programme (2014-2020), the ERC has a budget of over €13 billion. 

Story credits

More informationis available from Dr Gerardo Adesso in the School of Mathematical Sciences, The University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 846 6165

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