About the Institute
The Institute for Quantum Computing is a scientific research institute at the University of Waterloo harnessing the quantum laws of nature to develop powerful new technologies that will transform information technology and drive the 21st century economy.
IQC was launched a decade ago thanks to the pioneering vision and incredibly generous personal investment of Mike Lazaridis. The BlackBerry creator understood that truly revolutionary technologies can only emerge when scientists are given the resources and intellectual freedom to pursue trailblazing research. Lazaridis had already demonstrated this passion and support for fundamental science by founding Waterloo's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, where scientists ponder the deepest questions of reality.
Lazaridis also saw the need to transform fundamental discoveries, through laboratory experiments, into practical technologies with widespread societal impact. He recognized quantum information science as a nascent area of research that was in the midst of moving from pure theory to lab experimentation and real applications. With this in mind, he teamed with David Johnson (then president of the University of Waterloo), to establish a new, cutting-edge research facility at the university. The duo recruited Raymond Laflamme, a top quantum information scientist then working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, to turn their idea into a reality.
Lazaridis, Laflamme and Johnston knew the University of Waterloo — with its established history of scientific excellence and entrepreneurial spirit — would provide fertile intellectual soil from which this new institute could grow. They worked closely with Prof. Michele Mosca, a University of Waterloo mathematics alumnus who had recently earned his doctorate at Oxford, to establish the core group of researchers and key areas of focusplant the seeds. Through partnerships between the private sector, academia, and the federal and provincial governments, IQC launched in 2002 with Laflamme as its executive director and Mosca as deputy director.
Computers keep getting smaller and more powerful. The microprocessors we have today are unbelievably faster and more useful than the monolithic computing machines of a half-century ago. By fitting more and more transistors onto every microchip, engineers have continually halved the size, and doubled the power, of computers.
A threshold will soon be reached if this trend continues. The shrinking of transistors will, within the next decade or two, reach the scale of individual atoms — the quantum scale. This, from a physics standpoint, is a whole new ballgame. Quantum objects can be in a “superposition” of different states simultaneously, and they can be intrinsically linked by “entanglement” — a phenomenon that vexed even Einstein. What’s more, quantum systems are so fragile, even the act of observing them will change them.
Such quantum effects can be seen as hurdles to computing — or as tremendous opportunities. When properly controlled and manipulated, quantum effects can provide huge improvements over existing technologies. IQC was created to realize the incredible potential of quantum information and turn it into revolutionary technologies that will benefit society.
Research at IQC is fundamentally interdisciplinary, spanning theory and experiment to pursue every avenue of quantum information science. IQC fosters collaborations across the sciences and across borders.
In IQC's state-of-the-art laboratories, researchers explore quantum information through experiments in optics, nanoelectronics, nuclear magnetic resonance, quantum sensors and more. Theorists explore the deepest questions of the field in areas such as complexity theory, quantum algorithms, quantum error correction, and the fundamentals of quantum mechanics. This research has created a wealth of new knowledge, and is already spawning the first wave of practical quantum technologies. While the full-scale quantum computer remains a longer-term objective, technologies such as quantum cryptography systems and quantum sensors are already reaching the marketplace.
After a decade of tremendous growth and breakthrough science, IQC is now entering the next stage of its rapid evolution. In 2012, the institute will expand into its state-of-the-art headquarters, The Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre at the University of Waterloo. The facility is named in recognition of the vision and extraordinary support of Lazaridis, whose contributions since inception have exceeded $100 million. Designed to meet stringent scientific standards — with controls for vibration, temperature fluctuation and electromagnetic radiation — the building will facilitate research of the highest international calibre. An architecturally stunning showpiece built to foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, the building will be a magnet for the world's top minds. In the coming years, IQC will reach its projected complement of 30 faculty members, 50 postdoctoral fellows and 125 students. With IQC as a world-leader in quantum information research, Waterloo and Canada are becoming known as "Quantum Valley" — the epicentre of the next information revolution.