/ 27 May 2011

Quantum Information Processing and Communication: Laying the groundwork for Global Quantum Communication Networks

Quantum Information Processing And Communication: Laying The Groundwork For Global Quantum Communication Networks

Professor Francesco Petruccione, SARChI Chair in Quantum Information Processing and Communication, School of Physics, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Quantum Information Processing and Communication (QIPC) is an emerging discipline that has the capability to revolutionise the ICT sector in the 21st Century in the same way as the semiconductor-based transistor transformed the industry in the previous century. QIPC fuses two of the technological pillars of the 20th century, namely information science and quantum physics.

At present the Quantum Research Group (QRG) comprises a critical mass of more than 30 members (including five members of staff, one emeritus professor, two postdoctoral fellows and a number of postgraduate students). To date the QRG has graduated one PhD and 12 MSc students. One of the graduates, Ms Adriana Marais was awarded a Women in Science Fellowship in 2010 by the Department of Science and Technology for her Masters Thesis on security proofs of quantum cryptography protocols.

Another MSc Graduate, Ms Malehohonolo Semonyo, is now a Leap lecturer in the School of Physics of UKZN and is working on her PhD. Mr Ismail Akhalwaya joined the University of Johannesburg as a lecturer and is completing his PhD at the same time. After completion of their Masters degree, Mr Abdul Mirza and Mr Charles Freeman co-founded, with the Chair holder, the company QZN Technology, which aims to commercialise quantum technologies.

The QRG has received national and international recognition through its various theoretical and experimental undertakings and authoring more than 50 refereed publications and providing over 30 invited talks to conferences. A few provisional patents and PCT applications have been filed. To date, the Group has received about R 25 million in research funding.

The flagship projects of the Chair are highlighted below:
Open Quantum Systems: The Group has contributed to the development and formalisation of the theory of open quantum systems, which is the basis of recent quantum information technological applications. Since perfect isolation of quantum systems is not possible, it is important to incorporate the methods and tools of the theory of open quantum systems in the exploration of quantum technologies.

QuantumCity and QuantumStadium: The various quantum networking and real-time live applications of quantum cryptography have served to embed the Group’s reputation as a global leader in the field. The QuantumCity initiative was developed, in partnership with the eThekwini Municipality, to showcase the feasibility of quantum cryptography in a commercial environment for extended periods of time as well as to develop a test-bed quantum network for future experimentation. The QuantumStadium project secured service communications of the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Cold Matter and Quantum Computing: The Group has cooled a cloud of Rubidium 87 atoms to temperatures of a few micro-Kelvin in the first Magneto-Optical Trap realised on the African continent. Quantum Information Processing and Communication is a technology at the crossroads of photonics and nanotechnology. With both technologies noted to be fundamental to the scientific development of the 21st Century, it is imperative that South Africa joins the global race to develop strategic information technologies based on the laws of quantum physics.

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement