EMPIR project develops new quantum standard along with guides for its use

Close up of an electronic circuit board with transistors and connections overlayed with a graphic of a sine-wave representing the flow of digital information
Electronic circuit board and digital information technology concept

EMPIR project develops new amplifier for quantum sensitive applications, helping to revolutionise science

Quantum technologies offer a step change in sensitivity or accuracy not attainable with classical devices. As well as improvement in detectors and other instrumentation the harnessing of quantum phenomena will aid the development of such things as quantum computers, quantum key distribution for secure communication and the ultrasensitive spectrum analysis of microwave components. An essential requirement for these is the detection of single photons in real-time.

To detect these weak signals with modern electronics requires an amplification step. In addition, quantum phenomena, such as entanglement, are fragile and require cryogenic conditions of around 4 K (~ -269 oC) to maintain them.
However, current state-of-the-art cryogenic semiconductor amplifiers generate electrical noise that is at least a factor of ten too high for quantum sensitive applications.

The EMPIR project Josephson travelling wave parametric amplifier and its application for metrology (17FUN10, ParaWave) developed new facilities and instrumentation to advance quantum technologies to address this need.

New quantum amplifier and guides for its use

During the project parametric amplifier designs, external microwave circuits for operating the amplifiers, and techniques for interfacing the amplifiers to different quantum-based sensors were all produced. This led to the development of a new Josephson travelling wave parametric amplifier (JTWPA) based on three-wave mixing, which, simply put, enables the amplification of the signal to be separated out from other frequencies generated. The new amplifier will be of great interest to high-tech companies engaged in quantum computing and the manufacture of ultrasensitive instruments using quantum devices and systems.

To support uptake of the new instrument the project also produced two good practice guides which have been submitted to BIPM’s Consultative Committee for Electricity and Magnetism (CCEM) and EURAMET’s Technical Committee for Electricity and Magnetism (TC-EM):

These are also available on the ParaWave website.

In addition to the JTWPA the project also developed new facilities for quantum research.

New facilities

  • RHUL has developed a low-temperature dilution-cryostat setup for the characterisation of both resonator and travelling wave parametric amplifier devices.
  • PTB has developed a low-temperature measurement setup based on a dilution refrigerator with the aim of characterising JTWPA circuits at a temperature of about 20 mK with a focus on their linearity, dynamic range, and noise.

A longer-term outcome of the project will be the building of a dedicated low-temperature setup for the characterisation of parametric amplifiers and related circuitry within PTB’s new Quantum Technology Competence Center. The centre will focus on the development of user-friendly and robust components for quantum sensing and metrology and on providing calibrations, services, and facilities accessible for end users. Furthermore, it will offer hands-on training and seminars for quantum technology.

  • The new Advanced Quantum Metrology Laboratory (AQML) at NPL has been completed. Its overall aim is to expand NPL’s ground-breaking research in quantum technologies. The ParaWave Metrology Platform will be located in the AQML with close proximity to related research in quantum technologies and will form part of NPL’s showcase for quantum technologies with industry in the UK and further afield.
  • INRiM has developed the Piemonte Quantum Enabling Technology (PiQuET) centre and transferred the fabrication processes developed in the ParaWave project to this. PiQuET provides 400 m2 of clean room space for the development of new quantum, micro and nano devices, and will bring together and expand the knowledge of European scientists, engineers, and industry in Quantum Enabling Technologies.
  • Inspired by this project, the company SeeQC.EU, based in Italy, started its own JTWPA research programme. SeeQC.EU is developing the first digital quantum computing platform for global businesses.

Investigating the capabilities of the JTWPA is a first step towards the advancement of microwave quantum optics, which could impact many fields of science and technology, such as artificial intelligence, cryptography, detecting stealth objects and brain scans.

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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