It is really cold in there
By Michael Banks in Singapore
It was a humid 30 °C by mid-morning here in Singapore, so I was happy to be visiting what must be the coolest place in the country – the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT).
The CQT is located on the campus of the National University of Singapore, which lies on the southern tip of the island.
Founded in December 2007 by Artur Ekert from the University of Oxford, the centre carries out research into all things quantum, be it quantum computers, optics or cryptography.
I was satisfied enough to be standing in the air-conditioned labs to cool down, but that must not have been cold enough for physicists Murray Barrett and Kyle Arnold, both at the CQT.
Last year they reached a low-temperature extreme by creating a Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC) of atoms – reaching temperatures of a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero.
A poster on the wall outside their lab proudly identifies it as the first place in Singapore to have created a BEC – making it the coldest place in the country (and most likely on the equator as well).
Ekert, who is the CQT’s director, is hoping that this is the first of many breakthroughs that the centre will make in the coming years.
Ekert, one of the founders of quantum cryptography, certainly has some experience setting up successful research groups. During his PhD at Oxford, he established, together with fellow physicist David Deutsch, the first research group in quantum cryptography and computation.
Now armed with a grant of S$150m (£75m) from Singapore’s National Research Foundation, he is starting to build up the centre and attract top-notch researchers from around world.
There are already 90 researchers from no less than 24 nations at the CQT, with the majority coming from Singapore, China, Germany and the UK.
As CQT’s funding is over a five-year period, Ekert will have to apply for more funds in the coming years to keep the centre going. “We have received a lot of positive responses from the university, so I am pretty confident we will get it,” he says.