Quantum engineering research project receives award from NRF


The National Research Foundation (NRF), Prime Ministers Office, Singapore has awarded seven projects under the national Quantum Engineering Programme (QEP). This includes the building of single photon detectors, efficient quantum key distribution networks, and a fibre-based quantum device.


QEP launched a call for projects in July 2018, and 18 white papers were received. An international evaluation panel recommended awarding seven projects based on their quality and relevance to Singapore.


“A CMOS ion trap for integrated optical clocks”, by Prof Murray BARRETT, Department of Physics and Centre for Quantum Technologies, was among the projects awarded. 


Prof Barrett’s project highlights that atomic clocks are now a core technology in modern society, as evidenced by the many applications dependent on the global positioning system (GPS). Their advancement has played a crucial role in basic science, metrology and technical applications, including navigation, telecommunications, financial trading, radio astronomy, and tests of fundamental physics. Whenever improvements are made, existing technologies benefit or new applications arise.


CQT QEP Photo 1a
Prof Murray Barrett is pictured holding an ion trap – a device used to confine atoms for an atomic clock. Funding under the Quantum Engineering Programme will support his research group to develop chip-based traps. (Photo credits: Centre for Quantum Technologies)


Having already surpassed the performance of the current cesium standard, it can be anticipated that optical clocks will provide a new era of scientific and technological innovation. Fully capturing the opportunities arising from an emergent clock technology requires three important components: (1) a strong laboratory-based system to maintain a globally competitive standard and validate devices coming to market; (2) an ability to take that technology out of the lab with uncompromised performance, for commercial dissemination of a high accuracy standard; and (3) a viable path towards miniaturisation, for low-cost scalable device manufacturing.


The project team aims to develop an integrated CMOS chip for optical clock applications. The chip will integrate photonic circuitry and detectors with a surface trap to allow parallel laser interrogation and detection over an array of ions.


CQT QEP Photo 2a
In this laboratory, the research group led by Prof Murray Barrett is building a novel atomic clock to measure time with unprecedented precision. The Quantum Engineering Programme is funding his team to miniaturise some of the clock components to significantly reduce the complexity and overall size of the system. (Photo credits: Centre for Quantum Technologies)


Mr George LOH, Director (Programmes) of NRF said, The seven newly-awarded research projects are significant as they signify Singapore’s ambition to develop quantum devices and applications for commercial use. The projects are targeted at translating our understanding of quantum science into the engineering of devices that meet industry needs. We are confident that these research projects under the Quantum Engineering Programme will allow Singapore to build engineering solutions and systems to strengthen our expertise and competitive edge in the global market for quantum devices and applications.”