NPL opens quantum technology facility

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The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has opened a facility to help accelerate the development of new quantum technologies and help the UK secure a £1billion industry in this sector over the coming decades. The Quantum Metrology Institute is based at the NPL, the UK’s National Measurement Institute, in Teddington, and is part of the UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme.

Quantum science is the study of how light and matter behave and interact at a fundamental level. ‘Quantum’ means that many basic properties of a system can change only in small steps and not continuously as they appear to do in everyday life. For example, light appears as individual packets of energy called photons. These properties are used in flash memories, superconductors and LED lighting.Quantum properties also give rise to behaviours which have no parallel in normal life where photons or atoms can share properties between them in a way which gives rise to completely new applications.Quantum Technologies promise to deliver step change developments across lucrative markets such as highly accurate navigation, secure digital communication, very high speed computing, and oil and gas exploration.

The Quantum Metrology Institute at NPL will undertake research in quantum technologies, developing measurement techniques and fundamental standards. It will build a national capability for the testing and validation of these technologies to secure the confidence and investment necessary to commercialise new products. The Institute is aligned with the National Quantum Technologies Programme, in which the government is investing £270m to get quantum technologies out of laboratories and into the marketplace, through four university-led hubs. This centre at NPL for validating new technologies will also allow the Hubs and industry partners involved in the programme to share ideas and collaborate, speeding development. The QMI will host a large number of PhD students in quantum technologies, building skills for the next generation of quantum scientists.

Professor Sir Peter Knight, chair of the Quantum Metrology Institute, said: “Because quantum technologies are based on very advanced and extraordinary physics, validation is crucial to getting investors and industry on board to accelerate the commercialisation of them. As the UK’s home of measurement, with over one hundred years’ experience in helping new technologies make the jump from lab to market, NPL is the best place for this testing and validation to be conducted to ensure that the UK can start benefitting from amazing new technologies as soon as possible.”

NPL hopes to expand the Quantum Metrology Institute in the future with further high specification laboratories and new buildings dedicated to quantum metrology.