March 3, 2021

University of Calgary’s new nano-fabrication 'foundry' will advance quantum network devices

Canada Foundation for Innovation awards $18.2 million to 5 UCalgary-led research teams for investment in cutting-edge infrastructure
Paul Barclay
Paul Barclay is one of UCalgary's recipients of Canada Foundation for Innovation funding. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The intricate devices made by physicist Dr. Paul Barclay, PhD, and his research group in the Faculty of Science are too small to be seen by the naked eye. But their tiny diamond micro-disks could have a huge impact in revolutionizing computing, telecommunications and other fields.

Such microchip-scale components will be required to link quantum computers in a quantum network. This will enable unbreakable information and community security, unprecedented computational power, advanced sensors and other applications.

Barclay and his group are part of the University of Calgary’s Institute for Quantum Science and Technology and collaborate with colleagues at the NRC Nanotechnology Research Centre and the University of Alberta.

Now, the two universities’ quantum science and nanoscience research teams, which have collaborated for nine years in federally and provincially funded projects, have together been awarded more than $5.2 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The project is one of five UCalgary-led projects to be awarded CFI Innovation funding for infrastructure investments. “We are tremendously proud of our scholars' success in this competition,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research).

Infrastructure investments are critical to the long-term success of our research, and put us on the cutting edge of technology development and knowledge creation.

Eight additional UCalgary teams have been awarded funding as part of projects led at other institutions, valued at $56.2 million. Please see a complete list of recipients at the bottom of the article.

Barclay's funding will be used in a project worth more than $13 million to establish a nano-fabrication “foundry” at UCalgary — the first of its kind in Canada — for producing a larger number of and more complex “diamond optomechanical” devices. Current plans are to locate the foundry in the Science A and Earth Sciences buildings.

The investment builds on existing capacity in the Microsystems Hub in the Schulich School of Engineering. UAlberta’s existing nanoFAB facility also will be expanded.

“We’re building the capacity to be able to build better devices,” says Barclay, associate professor of physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “We will have very good access here to a suite of high-quality, reliable tools that can be optimized for the work that we do.”

Graduate students play key role in building devices

About four years ago, Barclay’s research group fabricated the first-ever nano-sized optical resonator (or “cavity”) from a single crystal of diamond that is also a mechanical resonator which vibrates like a tuning fork.

Such diamond optomechanical devices provide a platform to study the quantum behaviour of microscopic objects, including being able to measure the coupling of light and mechanical motion inside the optical cavity.

Barclay’s group, in a study published in January in the journal Nature Communications, showed they could transfer information encoded in light into a diamond micro-disk’s mechanical vibration, where the information “lives” (remains intact), and later can be measured and recovered. Such technology will be required to build a quantum memory to enable quantum networking.

Barclay credits his graduate students who were involved in making the first diamond micro-disk in 2016, and who have been with his research group during the last four years, for being able to advance beyond the initial proof-of-concept device.

They include then-PhD students Dr. David Lake, PhD, and Dr. Matthew Mitchell, PhD, who are, respectively the lead author and co-author of the most recent 2021 study. Lake is now at the California Institute of Technology and Mitchell is at the University of British Columbia.

UCalgary an international leader in quantum science

The University of Calgary is recognized internationally as a leader in quantum photonics. The field involves developing micro- and nano-scale (about 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair) circuits for transmitting and manipulating light containing quantum bits of information, or qubits.

One example of UCalgary’s prominence is that research groups at MIT and Stanford have adopted the Barclay group’s technique for fabricating diamond quantum photonic devices.

“The research groups we have here are excellent, with global leaders in the field, and the University of Calgary has been a quantum centre for a long time,” Barclay says.

Dr. Daniel Oblak, PhD, assistant professor of physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is a quantum memory expert whose group builds devices for quantum memory, using larger crystals than the diamond micro-chips used by Barclay’s group.

Thorough the new CFI-funded “QDiamond” project and nano-fabrication foundry, Oblak’s group will be able to construct nano-photonic versions of their devices, which can then be integrated with the Barclay group’s diamond micro-disks.

Dr. Shabir Barzanjeh, PhD, assistant professor of physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and who recently joined UCalgary, is an expert in connecting photonic and superconducting quantum circuits. He will be able to use the new foundry to integrate his work, which is important for linking quantum computers, with devices made by the Barclay and Oblak groups.

All three groups are currently operating experiments in recently constructed, co-located laboratories that “provide an excellent training environment for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows,” Barclay says.

Complementing the three physicists’ experimental research strengths in the Department of Physics and Astronomy are Dr. Barry Sanders, PhD, professor of physics and director of the Institute for Quantum Science and Technology, and Dr. Christoph Simon, PhD, professor of physics. As Barclay notes, “They are world leaders in understanding what is needed to implement quantum technologies.”

The National Research Council, in a 2017 report, projected that “by 2030, Canada will be able to grow an $8.2-billion quantum technology industry, employing 16,000 people and generating $35 billion in returns for the government.”

“The CFI-supported QDiamond project and foundry will allow us to push forward our future capabilities and stay at the forefront of the field,” Barclay says. “This capacity is needed for Calgary to play a role in emerging industries based on quantum technology.”

The UCalgary-led CFI Innovation funded projects are:

  • Dr. Paul Barclay, PhD (Faculty of Science), and Dr. John Davis, PhD (University of Alberta): "QDiamond: Accelerating the Second Quantum Revolution"
  • Dr. Jeff Biernaskie, PhD (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine), and Dr. Michael Kallos, PhD (Schulich School of Engineering): "Centre for Cell Therapy Translation (CTT)"
  • Dr. Viola Birss, PhD (Faculty of Science), and Dr. Edward Roberts, PhD (Schulich School of Engineering): "Durable Materials for Electrolyzers, Fuel Cells, and Batteries"
  • Dr. Signe Bray, PhD, and Dr. Bradley Goodyear, PhD (Cumming School of Medicine): "Imaging the Development of Brain Circuits for Early Detection and Intervention in Mental Illness"
  • Dr. Paul Kubes, PhD and Dr. Kathy McCoy (Cumming School of Medicine): "Wild Microbiome and Immunity Centre" 

UCalgary teams working on CFI Innovation projects led by other institutions are:

  • Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, PhD (Cumming School of Medicine): "Cancer Risks of Arsenic and Radon Environmental Exposures (CARE)" (Dalhousie University)
  • Dr. David Hogan, PhD (Cumming School of Medicine): "Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA): A Platform for Interdisciplinary Research" (McMaster University)
  • Dr. Benjamin Tutulo, PhD (Faculty of Science): "Building a Future for Canadian Neutron Scattering" (McMaster University)
  • Dr. Andrew Daly, PhD, and Dr. Douglas Mahoney, PhD (Cumming School of Medicine): "ExCELLirate Canada: Expanding CELL-Based Immunotherapy Research Acceleration for Translation and Evaluation" (Queens University)
  • Dr. Tim Friesen, PhD (Faculty of Science): "HAICU: Hydrogen Antihydrogen Infrastructure at Canadian Universities for Quantum Innovations in Antimatter Science" (University of British Columbia)
  • Dr. Christopher Cully, PhD (Faculty of Science): "RADiation Impacts on Climate and Atmospheric Loss Satellite (RADICALS) Mission" (University of Alberta)
  • Dr. Ian Lewis, PhD (Faculty of Science): "Canadian Analytics Network for Outcome Prediction In Exposures (CANOPIE)" (University of Alberta)
  • Dr. Leo Belostotski, PhD (Schulich School of Engineering), and Dr. Jo-Anne Brown, PhD (Faculty of Science): "CHORD: The Canadian HI Observatory and Radio transient Detector" (University of Toronto)

The University of Calgary’s physicists continue to be leaders in quantum technologies. Check out their work on quantum teleportation, quantum entanglement, radar using quantum entanglement, and quantum internet switches.

This prestigious group represents the breadth and depth of the research and expertise at the University of Calgary, representing a number of the institutes within the Cumming School of Medicine, including the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI), the Owerko Centre at ACHRI, the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education at the HBI, the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases.