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Broadly-tunable Illumination Facility for Research, Outreach, Scholarship, and Training (BIFROST), a laser facility.

Quantum Leaps

A major gift from Roy Eddleman, along with multiple large grants, cement UC Santa Barbara’s status as an international hub for quantum research

Some of the most groundbreaking technological advances of the 21st century are being pioneered by UC Santa Barbara scientists and engineers working in the realm of quantum.

If quantum is a wave of the future, UC Santa Barbara is riding the crest. And philanthropists and major funding agencies are noticing.

They are part of a revolution — a quantum revolution that centers on nature’s smallest units. The quantum world is where particles can exist in several states at once and change states instantly as though distance were no matter.

Case in point: Tech businessman Roy T. Eddleman’s leadership gift establishes the university’s Roy T. Eddleman Center for Quantum Innovation, promising the “acceleration of progress in quantum science and engineering research, education and programs.”

The gift supports a variety of quantum science-related activity, including research, postdoctoral and graduate fellowships. Eddleman Center activities will be coordinated by professors Ania Jayich, David Weld and Stephen Wilson.

“UC Santa Barbara has so many brilliant people, you can’t even begin to think of the possibilities of what they might discover, invent or find in the future,” Roy said. “What we need to do is find young, brilliant grad students and undergrads who are just deciding what they are going to pursue, and hopefully lure a lot of them into the quantum sciences, because it’s an incredible world there.”

The sentiment is reflected too in a recent $25 million award from the National Science Foundation to establish,at UC Santa Barbara, the nation’s first Quantum Foundry. Also directed by Jayich and Wilson, the foundry will aim to leverage the campus’s strengths in materials, physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering and computer science, as well as its tradition of multidisciplinary collaboration, to advance quantum science-based technologies.

Drawing from state-of-the-art facilities such as the Materials Research Lab and the California NanoSystems Institute, among others, Foundry members aim to widen the field of quantum knowledge for technologies not yet dreamt of.

“One of the big ideas behind the Foundry is to take these early theoretical ideas that are just beginning to be experimentally viable and use quantum mechanics to produce technologies that can outperform classical technologies,” Jayich said.

The recent, growing support for quantum at UC Santa Barbara also includes the campus being named to participate in three of the five new Quantum Information Science Research Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. It all comes on the heels of significant success, such as the history made in 2019 by UC Santa Barbara physicist John Martinis and his team at a Google AI laboratory: The group’s Sycamore quantum computer performed — in a mere three minutes — a calculation that today’s best computers would require thousands to millions times longer.

“We don’t know when these things are going to explode into something incredibly beneficial for man, but they will,” said Roy, pointing to such achievements in quantum computing, LED lighting, and other technologies that harness quantum behaviors and properties. “The world is going to change so much because of [quantum technology], and one of the most beautiful things we can do is give money to get kids, professors and everybody thinking about quantum science, because the world’s going to be a better place because of it. Things are beginning to change and they will change phenomenally — and UC Santa Barbara is one of the leading universities in the world who understands it better than practically everyone.”