Quantum computing may have scored in Australian research funding round

The federal government has handed out AU$283.5 million to the Australian Research Centre to help fund nine new centres of excellence focused on specialised fields such as quantum computing and gravitational wave discovery.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government has announced the launch of nine new Australian Research Council (ARC) Centres of Excellence, handing out AU$283.5 million to fund specialised research.

Seven Australian universities will administer the ARC Centres of Excellence, involving a further 163 participating organisations from across 27 countries, which the ARC said will provide a total of AU$761.4 million to support to the centres.

Under the scheme, the University of Queensland (UQ) has received AU$31.9 million in funding to lead a national centre developing advanced quantum technologies.

UQ deputy vice-chancellor for research professor Robyn Ward said the new centre would have five Australian nodes and 18 partner organisations, both local and international.

"UQ has a long history of leading the field in terms of quantum research and is the home of Australia's first laboratories in both quantum photonics and quantum optomechanics," she said.

"Under the leadership of centre director professor Andrew White, researchers will move beyond the lab towards practical prototypes and commercial applications, including material simulators, diagnostic technologies and geo-survey tools."

The university expects the centre will build sophisticated quantum machines to harness the quantum world for practical applications, giving UQ the opportunity to create the designer quantum materials, quantum engines, and quantum imaging systems at the heart of the machines.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) also received part of the AU$283.5 million funding for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, which it officially opened in April.

A team of researchers out of the UNSW centre, led by professor Michelle Simmons, is currently racing to build the world's first quantum computer in silicon.

Well on their way to achieving their goal, UNSW's engineers already unlocked the key to enabling quantum computer coding in silicon, announcing in November that the team had the capability to write and manipulate a quantum version of computer code using two quantum bits (qubits) in a silicon microchip.

According to UNSW, in achieving this breakthrough the team has removed lingering doubts that such operations can be made reliably enough to allow powerful quantum computers to become a reality.

The breakthrough followed on from an announcement made in October when another team of engineers from the university built a quantum logic gate in silicon, which made calculations between two qubits of information possible.

UNSW will also attempt to transform Australia's capacity to predict future climate extremes through data modelling out of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes. The ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research will also be run out of the Randwick campus.

The Australian National University will aim to answer fundamental questions in astrophysics from its ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions; the University of Wollongong will establish an interdisciplinary research program to understand Australia's unique biodiversity and heritage with its ARC Centre of Excellence of Australian Biodiversity and Heritage; while the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery will be established at the Swinburne University of Technology to explore the extreme physics of black holes and warped spacetime.

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, to be established at The University of Melbourne, will manipulate the way light energy is absorbed, transported, and transformed in advanced molecular materials. Also in Victoria, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low Energy Electronics Technologies will be launched at Monash University to develop the scientific foundation and intellectual property for new electronics technologies.

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