The National Science Foundation has announced the formation of a new institute that will explore new ways to create and connect quantum computers and networks.

Established with a $25 million, five-year NSF award, the new Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks (HQAN) will be headquartered at The Grainger College of Engineering’s Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST). It is one of only three Challenge Institutes in the country.

According to the NSF, Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes bring together multidisciplinary researchers and diverse partners to advance scientific, technological, and workforce development goals.

“Quantum information science has the potential to change the world. But to realize that potential, we must first answer some fundamental research questions,” said Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, NSF Director. “Through the Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes, NSF is making targeted investments. Within five years, we are confident these institutes can make tangible advances to help carry us into a true quantum revolution.”

The collaborative institute spans three Midwest research powerhouses, all of which are members of the Chicago Quantum Exchange: The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin. HQAN also includes proposed partnerships with industry and government labs, five of which are CQE corporate partners.

“The development of quantum computers is faced with a major challenge in scaling up to high numbers of qubits,” said National Science Foundation Program Director John D. Gillaspy. “This center will explore the feasibility of creating networks of small quantum computers as an alternative to more complex, larger ones. Success from these researchers would mean a faster move toward a quantum computing revolution.”

HQAN will create hybrid quantum platforms that discover and refine designs for locally distributed quantum processors and networks by leveraging the strengths of multiple types of quantum hardware, including atomic and superconducting systems.

“Connecting multiple quantum processors in a network could alleviate some of the scaling issues,” said Brian DeMarco, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is the director of HQAN. “Our team’s approach could also open up new opportunities because a hybrid quantum network may be optimal for solving problems that require distributed computing resources.”

Hannes Bernien, assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and Mark Saffman, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and chief scientist at ColdQuanta, and Paul Kwiat, professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, are co-principal investigators on the program.

View the releases by institution:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign news release

University of Chicago news release

University of Wisconsin-Madison news release