Technology and knowledge connecting university and business
Issue 19 | Year 8 | July 2018

Chip. University of Trento Photograph Collection.



The Q@TN project is a collaboration between the University, FBK and CNR

Versione stampabile
Claudio Nidasio
works in the Scientific Research and Technology Transfer Division of the University of Trento.
By combining our skills and resources in this area, we hope to become a major centre at the European level, to obtain European funding and to train future professionals, scientists, engineers, technicians and entrepreneurs.

Claudio Nidasio interviews Lorenzo Pavesi

Creating a research community that can participate actively in the second quantum revolution: this is the aim of the Q@TN project, a collaboration between the University of Trento, Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) and the Italian National Research Council (CNR). We talked about the project with Lorenzo Pavesi, director of the Department of Physics of the University of Trento and member of the Q@TN management board. 

Professor Pavesi, what do we mean by second quantum revolution?
The last century saw the development of the theory of quantum mechanics, which we have used to explain natural phenomena and to develop quantitative models of the behaviour of nature. This led to the invention of devices that have permitted the technological evolution of the information society. For example, transistors, invented in 1947, which are the basis of microelectronics, and lasers, invented in 1960, which are the basis of photonics. Without these devices we would not have computers, the internet, personalized medicine or artificial intelligence. The use of quantum mechanics has allowed us to understand how matter behaves at the nanoscale. Today in a microprocessor (the “brain” of all devices from a washing machine to a tablet) there are billions of transistors, each with dimensions in the billionths of a metre, that switch at speeds of billionths of a second, moving flows of billions of electrons per second. This technological evolution is the so-called first quantum revolution. Our ambition is now to move towards the manipulation of single particles or quantum states whose behaviour is described by the intrinsic properties of quantum theory, and from there to invent new devices that utilize concepts such as the superposition of quantum states or entanglement between particles. We are opening the door to the second quantum revolution, with numerous applications already identified in the fields of quantum computing, cryptography and quantum sensors. Experiments have shown that it is possible to teleport a quantum state into space, and so to connect Europe and China.

Trentino is part of this revolution. Can you tell us how Q@TN began? 
We saw that there is already significant research activities in this field at the local level, and so we thought that a joint coordinated action could add considerable value to this, allowing these problems to be approached from a strongly interdisciplinary perspective. By combining the skills of physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers, we can develop innovative initiatives both in research as well as in technology and training. In addition, by creating an alliance between the two main actors of Trentino in this field, the University and FBK, and one of the principal actors at the national level, CNR, we aim to make Trento a national hub of technology transfer in quantum sciences and technologies. The project has obtained the support of the University through its Strategic Plan, as well as of the CARITRO foundation and the Autonomous Province of Trento.

Q@TN sees itself as fitting into the framework of the European Commission’s European Quantum Technology Flagship Program. What are the main research and technology transfer activities that are anticipated?
With our skills and equipment, we can cover the entire chain of technological development: from developing new theories and models to testing new physical phenomena, and from designing and manufacturing new devices to the pre-prototype development of new technology. By combining our skills and resources in this area, we hope to become a major centre at the European level, not only to obtain European funding but also for the training of future professionals (scientists, engineers, technicians and entrepreneurs). Currently, in accordance with what is outlined in the European Flagship, we have identified five areas of work: the development of new knowledge through a deeper understanding of quantum sciences, the use of the quantum paradigm to enable new secure communication protocols, overcoming current limitations in computing through the use of qubits instead of the traditional bits in new quantum computing architectures, the modelling of complex phenomena through quantum simulators that reproduce the evolution of a phenomenon within a controlled system, and the use of single particles for sensors and measurements at very high levels of resolution and sensitivity.

Q@TN is a partnership that includes five departments of the University, several of FBK’s Research Centres and CNR. What is the role of the various partners in the project?
Obviously each partner brings its own specific expertise, but the success of this initiative will lie in our capacity to develop projects that are strongly interdisciplinary in order to open up perspectives that are different from our everyday research. For example, several PhD schools of our university have launched a joint call for applications for twelve PhD students in the area of quantum sciences and technologies. We are developing an interdepartmental master’s degree in Quantum Engineering with content that is highly innovative compared with programmes generally available in Italy. We are also looking at promoting a technology transfer project with European strategic funds to cover the transition from testing a new technology to its production and so to facilitate new entrepreneurship in advanced technology. The partnership with a national entity such as CNR will enable us to have a much wider audience, and therefore both to attract business interest in the research that we are doing and to allow Q@TN to develop practical applications for basic research undertaken by other CNR centres outside Trentino.