Researchers will use cutting-edge quantum technologies to transform our understanding of the universe, answering key questions around dark matter and black holes.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is supporting seven projects with a £31 million investment to demonstrate how quantum technologies could solve some of the greatest mysteries in fundamental physics.
Just as quantum computing promises to revolutionise traditional computing, technologies such as quantum sensors have the potential to radically change our approach to understanding our universe.
Early universe and black holes
A project led by the University of Nottingham aims to provide insights to the physics of the early universe and black holes that cannot be tested in a laboratory.
The team aims to use quantum simulators to mimic the extreme conditions of the early universe and black holes with sufficient accuracy to confirm some of Einstein’s predictions on general relativity.
A team led by Royal Holloway, University of London, will develop new quantum sensors which can be used to search for dark matter, the mysterious matter thought to make up most of the universe and influence how galaxies form.
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.
An exciting research programme
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.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
As we build back better from the pandemic, it’s critical that we throw our weight behind new transformative technologies, such as quantum, that could help to unearth new scientific discoveries and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower.
Today’s funding will enable some of the UK’s most ambitious quantum researchers to develop state of art technologies that could help us solve important unanswered questions about our universe, from proving Einstein’s theory of relativity to understanding the mysterious behaviour of black holes.