The field of quantum mechanics was born more than a century ago as scientists sought to understand the laws governing the behavior of microscopic particles—e.g., atoms and electrons—which contrasts markedly from the behavior of macroscopic objects. The laws of quantum mechanics operate in stark contradiction to the laws of Newtonian mechanics and, more importantly, seem to clash with everyday experience. That is, macroscopic objects can exist in only a single physical reality at any given time, whereas quantum particles can exist in multiple realities simultaneously. This principle, called the superposition principle, lies at the heart of quantum behavior.

During this initial ‘quantum revolution,’ scientists applied concepts of quantum mechanics on a microscopic scale, delivering extraordinary advances in lasers, GPS devices, tiny transistors, and superconductors. The offspring of these discoveries included computers, mobile phones, and the Internet—with profound and accelerating impacts on both science and society.

We stand now on the verge of another critical breakthrough in quantum technology. This second quantum revolution is focused on exploiting fundamental phenomena in quantum theory: that objects can be in different states at the same time (being both 0 and 1, or superposition); that objects can be deeply connected without direct physical interaction (entanglement); and that all objects have wave-like properties (coherence). We are now able to control, manipulate, and observe the behavior of a single electron, as well as the collective behavior of systems composed of many atoms or electrons—achievements beyond the wildest dreams of previous generations.

The applications of these phenomena include massively more efficient technologies—from quantum computers that will be able to solve previously unsolvable problems; to quantum sensors that can detect small and intricate signals; to quantum microscopes that will vastly improve on the resolution with which we can image living cells; to quantum communication systems that will allow for more efficient and more secure information transfer; to improved global navigation in the remotest corners of the world; and to new materials with outstanding electrical, magnetic, and mechanical properties. Numerous fundamental aspects of existence that previously could not be sensed, recorded, computed, and analyzed using classical systems—features too intricate, complex, and massive, or alternatively, too sensitive and delicate to be observed—may be understood and exploited as a result of second-revolution quantum science. The fruits of quantum endeavors are now beginning to ripen!

The Center for Quantum Science and Technology is dedicated to promoting synergistic and multidisciplinary research on quantum computing, simulation, sensing, and communication—with a strong connection to basic research.