Quantumtech TU/e literally going underground

A hybrid quantum computer, unhackable quantum internet, a workbench-sized synchrotron: these are a few examples of the cutting-edge research of the Coherence and Quantum Technology group and the Center for Quantum Materials and Technology (QT/e). In 2023, it will all be housed in a new building located between the TU/e buildings Flux and Cascade. The laboratories will be underground, shielded from outside influences that might be disruptive to the experiments.

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The building project was recently approved by the Executive Board and involves an investment of between 8 and 11 million euros. It was already clear that the Coherence and Quantum Technology research group of the Applied Physics department would have to move. The current accommodation, in the Cyclotron building, is being leased from GE Healthcare. The agreement with this company expires in early 2023. GE Healthcare says it needs the space itself, so the departure was inevitable. Alternative accommodation had long been sought, but attempts to accommodate the group in other buildings, including within the Gemini building, did not succeed.

That is, until they came up with the creative idea of locating the research laboratories underground, for the first time on the TU/e campus, as part of a new building between the existing Flux and Cascade buildings. "A stroke of genius," says Gerrit Kroesen, dean of Applied Physics. "This puts the group in the heart of our department, in between our buildings. Moreover, by opting for an underground lab, there is no danger of radiation release to surrounding buildings, and outside influences are minimal."

Coldest spot in Eindhoven

Physicist Servaas Kokkelmans, director of QT/e and project leader of quantum computing, is excited about the new building. "The absence of influences such as sunlight or above-ground temperature fluctuations is paramount for our interference-sensitive experiments." Because of the use of temperatures just above absolute zero, Kokkelmans speaks of “the coldest spot in Eindhoven”.

He and his colleagues are currently building a hybrid quantum computer, a cross between a classical computer and one that applies the enormous computing power of the quantum world. This device will be ready in 2024 and will therefore be located in the new lab.

Kokkelmans' research into quantum technology is part of Quantum Delta NL, in which five major Dutch quantum research centers and affiliated universities and research centers are joining forces. The new building will form the physical Eindhoven 'hub' of this, with an exhibition area, among other things, introducing visitors to quantum technology.

"Students, companies, schoolchildren and other interested parties can drop by and get an impression of our research, and a tour of the lab," Kokkelmans says. "Also, you will soon be able to log on to the national quantum internet here, and use our hybrid quantum computer from the basement yourself."

Flexible use

The visible part of the building above ground will consist of three floors, with the existing footbridge between Flux and Cascade going right through the building. This will primarily house office and lecture spaces. 

The final design of the building is currently being completed. The building must have "maximum flexibility," according to dean Kroesen. "Through the design choices - from ventilation and the thickness of the walls to the location of restrooms and service lines - we are ensuring that the building is suitable to be used for other purposes in the future."

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