Published: 25 November 2015

First joint Surrey-NPL laboratory opens on campus

Part of the University’s strategic partnership with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the joint Hyper Terahertz Facility will enable researchers to push the barriers of quantum technology.

The Facility was opened on 20th November by Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Professor Jonathan Seville and Dr Robin Hart, NPL’s Director of Programmes, in a ceremony attended by researchers from NPL, the University’s ATI (Advanced Technology Institute), RAL (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory), and other leading research institutions and universities. These included UCL (University College London) which is a key collaborator with Surrey in the ADDRFSS (Atomically Deterministic Doping and Readout For Semiconductor Solotronics) project.

Following a welcome by Surrey’s Head of Photonics Professor Ben Murdin, Professor Seville and Dr Hart, attendees listened to addresses by Dr Mira Naftaly of NPL, and Steve Chick, who is undertaking a PhD in Photonics at Surrey. They were then invited to take a tour of the new facility.

The Hyper Terahertz Facility, which is located in the ATI, is the first joint laboratory to be opened under the strategic partnership signed between Surrey and NPL in July 2014. The first facility of its kind in the UK, it will enable experiments in the terahertz spectrum – a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that is not well used currently – which researchers believe holds the key to a number of breakthroughs in quantum technology.

The primary focus will be investigating how the short, high power pulses of the terahertz spectrum can be used to control the ability of atoms to be in two places at once, which is a crucial requirement in the advance of quantum computing. Quantum computers are able to make calculations much more rapidly than standard computers and therefore have the potential for huge improvements across many industries.

The Hyper Terahertz Facility will also enable researchers to develop transistors at the ultimate limits of nanotechnology, where a single atom controls the signal flow. This technology could have valuable applications in biomedical research, for example, by helping researchers to understand how receptors within the body open up to receive drugs.

Professor Jonathan Seville commented, “The opening of this Facility at Surrey has been achieved through a close collaboration between the two groups, with NPL’s Time, Quantum and Electromagnetics division contributing its expert knowledge in THz generation, and Surrey providing the necessary infrastructure and driving the research in silicon single atom quantum technology. This is a great demonstration of our evolving partnership and will be an excellent platform for research into the next generation of electronics.”

Dr Rhys Lewis, head of the Time, Quantum and Electromagnetics division at NPL said, “This is a very exciting extension of our already fruitful collaboration with the University of Surrey in quantum and electromagnetic technologies. The ability to work together in the same facility will doubtless lead to additional successes which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We look forward to extending this model to other areas of our work.”

A second joint Surrey-NPL laboratory, which will focus on high frequency microwave measurements, is due to open at the University in early 2016. NPL and Surrey are also planning to collaborate more closely on 5G communications technologies.


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