The University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering is providing key expertise for a new project which has won funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The Quantum-enhanced Interferometry for New Physics project, led by Cardiff University, is one of seven UKRI-funded projects which aim to transform our understanding of the universe.

The projects will share in a £31m investment to demonstrate how quantum technologies could solve some of the greatest mysteries in fundamental physics.

The ambitious goal of the £4M Quantum-enhanced Interferometry for New Physics is to apply recent advances in optical interferometry and quantum technologies to  fundamental questions on the nature of dark matter and the origins of the universe. 

The consortium brings together the Universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Strathclyde, and Warwick in the UK with MIT, Caltech, NIST, and Fermilab in the US and DESY and AEI Hannover in Germany.

The researchers will build four table-top experiments to search for dark matter in the galactic halo, improve the 100m scale ALPS light-shining-through-the-wall experiment at DESY with novel single photon detectors, search for quantisation of space-time, and test models of semiclassical gravity.

These experiments will allow the team to explore new parameter spaces of photon – dark matter interaction, and seek answers to the long-standing question at the heart of modern science: how can gravity be united with the other fundamental forces?

The project is linked to two UK National Quantum Hubs, including the University of Glasgow-led QuantIC hub. It will apply state-of-the-art technologies, including optical cavities, quantum states of light, superconducting single-photon detectors, and extreme-performance optical coatings, to a broad class of fundamental physics problems.

Professor Robert Hadfield, Professor of Photonics at the James Watt School of Engineering, is leading the University of Glasgow’s and QuantIC’s contribution to the project. 

Professor Hadfield said: “I am excited to contribute my know-how in single-photon detection to the challenge of dark matter detection. I am delighted to be part of this major research effort with expert colleagues from across the UK and our international partners.”

The projects are supported through the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics programme, delivered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund. The programme is part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme, a 10 year initiative launched in 2014, with an overall investment of £1bn from public and private sectors.

Professor Mark Thomson, Executive Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said:  “STFC is proud to support these projects that utilise cutting-edge quantum technologies for novel and exciting research into fundamental physics.
“Major scientific discoveries often arise from the application of new technologies and techniques. With the application of emerging quantum technologies, I believe we have an opportunity to change the way we search for answers to some of the biggest mysteries of the universe. These include exploring what dark matter is made of, finding the absolute mass of neutrinos and establishing how quantum mechanics fits with Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“I believe strongly that this exciting new research programme will enable the UK to take the lead in a new way of exploring profound questions in fundamental physics.”

Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and UKRI sponsor for Quantum Technologies, said: “The National Quantum Technologies Programme has successfully accelerated the first wave of quantum technologies to a maturity where they can be used to make advances in both fundamental science and industrial applications.

“The investments UKRI is making through the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics programme allows us to bring together the expertise of EPSRC and STFC to apply the latest advances in quantum science and technology to explore, and answer, long-standing research questions in fundamental physics. This is a hugely exciting programme and we look forward to delivering these projects and funding further work in this area as well as exploring opportunities for exploiting quantum technologies with other UKRI partners.”