Quantum science center on tap at DSU

Dr. Gour S. Pati, Delaware State University physics and engineering, left, is the principal investigator and director of the new Center of Excellence in Advanced Quantum Sensing, funded by a five-year, $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. The grant was formally announced at DSU on Thursday, with U.S. Sens. Tom Carper, center, and Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. (Delaware State News/Brooke Schultz)

DOVER — From better understanding the human brain, to precise measurements of time and magnetic fields, Delaware State University will be establishing a center dedicated to quantum sensing to dive further into quantum science research.

The Center of Excellence in Advanced Quantum Sensing is made possible by a five-year, $7.5 million research grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense to the university.

“The center has evolved to provide distinctive research opportunities and also quantum science-related education to our undergraduate and graduate students on the campus,” Dr. Gour S. Pati, DSU professor of physics and engineering, said during a press conference Thursday. “This is very unique, especially for DSU.”

Dr. Pati will serve as the principal investigator and director of the center. The co-principal investigator is Dr. Renu Tripathi, professor and co-director of the center. Other investigators include Dr. Deborah Santamore, Dr. Jun Ren and Dr. Matthew Bobrowski.

Quantum sensing technology provides new avenues for improving sensitivity and precision of physical measurements (such as time, electromagnetic field, rotation, acceleration, gravity, etc.) beyond classical limits, according to a news release. It has growing relevance in applications ranging from enabling inertial navigation to understanding the human brain.

The DSU researchers will work with Northwestern University, as well as DoD research labs, including the Army Research Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory.

The center’s research will focus on realizing entanglement-enhanced quantum sensing — in the form of spin squeezing — in atomic clocks and magnetometers using cold atom platforms; exploring precision rotation sensing and accelerometry using a spin-squeezed, light pulse atom interferometer; and addressing practical issues (e.g., coherence time anomaly and decoherence) in solid-state, spin-based quantum sensors, such as silicon carbide sensors and nitrogen-vacancy sensors.

For those not of a quantum science mind, here it is in layman’s terms — enough to make conversation — courtesy of U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., on Thursday morning.

“It can be used in so many ways, so many remarkable ways. The potential environmental applications, like early detection of volcanic eruptions, to public safety applications like being able to see around corners, to public health applications, like the early detection of multiple sclerosis,” she said. “The potential in this field is unlimited. And right here, in Dover, … we will be producing science, technology, information and the workforce of the future.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., noted that his great-uncle was a bombardier in the second World War and a critical piece of technology — the Norden bombsight — was developed to help bombs drop from high altitudes and reach their targets. One must account for wind speed, drag, air density and the spin of the world itself.

“A lot of (Dr. Pati and Dr. Tripathi’s) work is essentially about the spin of atoms themselves, grasping and manipulating and managing and then applying the insights from the actual spin,” he said. “They have literally moved the frontiers of science from a challenge being dealing with the spin of a planet so large we can barely sense that we’re on a planet to an atom so tiny that it defies our perception.”

DSU is one of four historically black colleges and universities to receive the grant. The center will have educational and training opportunities for students in quantum information science and sensing.

“One of the ways we inspire young people to pursue a career in science is through appropriate recognition, representation and role models,” Sen. Coons said, adding, “It’s important that we continue to pay attention, to not just turning back the ways in which our country has been moving in the wrong direction, in terms of racial inequality, lack of access to health care, to education, to opportunity, but in turning forward the clocks at all levels, accelerating the rate of progress and being more precise in the things that we do together.”