6/6/16 Microsoft sign

With funding from Microsoft, a Purdue research team known as ‘Station Q Purdue’ will research potential methods of quantum computing.

“In order to see if these ideas that (Microsoft) has are realistic, whether they can be experimentally verified and then put to use, (Microsoft) has teamed up with certain experimentalists around the world,” said professor Michael Manfra, the director of Station Q Purdue.

Microsoft’s quantum computing research is done under their own Microsoft Station Q. Station Q Purdue is part of the network of other Station Q research teams that Microsoft has established internationally to study potential methods of quantum computing.

“Basically, (Station Q) is a way of recognizing the strong collaboration that goes on,” Manfra said. “It’s a team of experimentalists and theorists all working together and trying to verify these rather speculative ideas. Even though we’re independent research labratories, we’re all working towards this common aim of developing a topological quantum computer.”

Manfra is a Bill and Dee O’Brian Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and a professor in both the Schools of Materials Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering. In this research, he focuses on applying his knowledge of topology to work towards synthesizing materials that can be used in quantum computing.

“My emphasis, at the Purdue side, is that we’re experts in making and characterizing materials that may be useful for quantum computing. That’s our expertise; we know how to make certain classes of materials, and we actually know how to measure them to see if they have the requisite properties (for use in a quantum computer),” Manfra said.

Microsoft has given multi-million dollar funding to Manfra and his team, greatly expanding their research efforts.

“It’s made a substantial change in the way I’m doing my research at Purdue. It’s brought new capabilities, new equipment and allowed me to hire some personnel to do the research.” Manfra said.

Quantum computing has always been highly sought after. It promises to initially bring great advancements to things like cyber security, national security and code breaking.

“Quantum computing is becoming a closer and closer reality, but it’s not going to be in your iPhones,” Manfra said. “Its real applications are in solving a class of problems that are really hard for a classical computer. There are certain problems that, no matter how big a traditional silicon based computer is, it’s still going to take essentially an infinite amount of time to solve the problem. The promise of quantum computing is that it can solve some of these exponentially hard problems.”

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