We have all heard of quantum theory but are generally happy to think of it as something that belongs in science fiction or that lurks in somewhere in secret, underground laboratories.
It may then come as a surprise to learn that quantum technologies are about to enter consumer markets. You could soon be carrying a range of quantum devices around in the form of smartphone components and wearable devices.
Quantum technology is poised to emerge from theory to mainstream.
In some ways we can liken quantum technologies to 5G; several years ago the challenges in 5G were predominantly in hardware, software and systems integration. Today, conversations have progressed onto creating new business opportunities that can benefit from 5G technology. Similarly, we are moving closer to exploring opportunities that quantum technologies will offer businesses and society rather than forever being stuck in conversations involving quantum mechanics.
Applications based on quantum mechanical theories have been around for a long time and one such application includes quantum well lasers.
Components making use of quantum effects operate faster and more efficiently compared to conventional devices.
It may come as no surprise that, at the heart of next generation technologies, quantum devices are enabled by compound semiconductors and South Wales is rapidly becoming established as the world centre for compound semiconductors.
Described by Albert Einstein as “spooky action at a distance”, these spooky properties allow for highly-sensitive instruments, ultra-secure communications and imaging platforms that can see through fog, to name but a few. Quantum technologies are truly set to create a step change in society.
Both existing and next generation quantum technologies rely on compound semiconductors. Quantum applications are designed to operate at specific wavelengths of light and therefore the material properties must be atomically engineered using compound semiconductors.
For a growing number of organisations, especially those that are part of the World’s first compound semiconductor cluster, located in South Wales, quantum technologies are firmly on the roadmap.
Wyn Meredith, Director of the Compound Semiconductor Centre said:
“Quantum technologies will bring significant opportunities to the compound semiconductor industry and we are actively involved in key projects to build our capabilities and be ready for the next generation applications that are on the horizon.”
However, moving from new device development to new product introduction requires considerable resource and this is perhaps one of the main reasons why we are not yet seeing widescale penetration of quantum technologies in markets today; robust devices are simply not available at the right cost of ownership and at the right volumes.
Because of the key role that compound semiconductors play in the development of quantum technologies, CSconnected, the South Wales based compound semiconductor eco-system is actively engaged in a number of quantum development programmes aimed at accelerating the commercialisation of quantum technologies
Chris Meadows, Director of CSconnected said:
“We have a growing portfolio of exciting projects in the quantum field and are reaching out to industry in the UK as well as abroad to help the cluster in refining its future technology and capability roadmap in quantum technologies. With emerging technologies, strong relationships with end-users is key to understanding market dynamics.”
Just as laser technologies moved from theoretical physics into mainstream consumer markets, it seems reasonable to expect quantum physics to enhance our lives in a wide range of future technologies.