Quantum Systems

Quantum information science (QIS) is a rapidly developing field that investigates new methods for processing information using the basic principles of quantum mechanics. In the 20th century, quantum mechanics allowed for the discovery of devices such as transistors and lasers that have shaped an information technology revolution. Today, by generating and controlling non-classical states of light and matter like entanglement and superposition, new quantum technologies can be realized that offer enhanced computational performance, increased security of data, and/or improved sensing capabilities.  For example, by operating on encoded data in so-called superposition states, quantum computers can factor large integers exponentially faster than the best-known classical algorithms, a celebrated capability known as Shor’s Algorithm.  Almost all major technology companies now have an active QIS R&D portfolio, and the number of jobs in the quantum sector is increasing each year.

Whereas the operation of digital computing devices can be described in terms of bits, which are abstract strings of 0’s and 1’s, standard quantum computers and communication devices operate using quantum bits, or “qubits”.  A qubit is any two-level quantum system.  While the state of a bit is always either 0 or 1, the state of a qubit can be 0, 1, or some wave-like superposition of 0 and 1.  Furthermore, multiple qubits can be correlated together in a wave-like superposition state, a phenomenon known as quantum entanglement defying any classical description or analogy. Superposition and entanglement confer fundamental advantages to qubits over any imaginable classical devices for computation, sensing, and communication. These advantages grow quickly as more qubits are brought together in quantum systems.

However, these quantum advantages are typically very fragile since the isolation and control of qubits requires overcoming a pervasive environment-induced effect known as decoherence.  Scientists are actively exploring different platforms and methods for building coherent, yet, controllable qubits.  Leading candidates include superconducting systems, trapped ions, photonic systems, and atomic arrays.  Exciting experimental progress is being made toward building scalable quantum hardware and demonstrating long-distance quantum communication.

Students specializing in quantum systems will learn the basic theoretical principles of quantum information processing and quantum physics alongside state-of-the-art experimental approaches.  Courses are designed to prepare the student for entering the quantum workforce after graduation or beginning QIS research in graduate school.

Suggested ECE Electives:

  • Semester 5 or 6: Quantum Systems 1 (ECE 305).  This course provides an introduction to quantum systems with an emphasis on QIS applications. The primary objective is to provide the conceptual and quantitative foundations for higher-level courses in quantum information science and nanoelectronics.  A heavy emphasis will be placed on the roles that information and communication play in quantum mechanics.
  • Semester 5 or 7: Quantum Information Theory (ECE 404).  This course focuses on the mathematical theory and applications underlying quantum computing and quantum communication.  Entanglement is presented as a resource for quantum information processing and protocols are analyzed in detail.  The specific topics covered in this course are chosen to reflect areas of high interest within the research community over the past two decades.
  • Semester 6 or 7: Quantum Systems 2 (ECE 405).  The purpose of this course is to introduce students with basic knowledge of quantum mechanics and electromagnetism to the various physical platforms used for quantum information processing, including single photons, trapped atoms and ions as well as superconducting qubits. This course will prepare them for research and more advanced topics in quantum technology.
  • Semester 6 or 8: Quantum Optics and Devices (ECE 406).  This course is planned to prepare ECE students for the advent of quantum technology era with the essential physics and device knowledge. The focus of the course is on the quantum optical sector of the broader field of quantum information and quantum computing. It covers main topics in quantum optics, basic quantum information protocols and their implementation using quantum optics, and representative quantum device architectures, not limited to photonics, for quantum information processing. 

Other Suggested Technical Electives within ECE:

  • ECE 350 Fields and Waves II
  • ECE 441 Physics and Modeling of Semiconductor Devices
  • ECE 444 IC Device Theory and Fabrication
  • ECE 452 Electromagnetic Fields
  • ECE 460 Optical Imaging

Suggested Non-ECE Technical Electives:

  • Math 257 Linear Algebra
  • Physics 370 Introduction to Quantum Information and Computing
  • Physics 460 Condensed Matter Physics
  • Physics 486 Quantum Physics

Suggested Course sequence:

It is expected that the student will have taken PHYS 214 prior to starting the Quantum Systems sequence (ECE 305, 405, 404, 406).  No further requirements are needed to take ECE 305, and this is the intended starting course in Quantum Systems subdiscipline.  It is recommended that the student take ECE 329, 340 in parallel with ECE 305 as these courses help provide a foundation for the 400-level courses.  ECE 305 progresses directly into ECE 405, and they should be normally taken in sequence.  ECE 404 can be taken independently, but it requires ECE 313, Math 257 (or equivalents).  ECE 406 builds on topics introduced in ECE 305 and ECE 329. 

Core Faculty In This Area

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Associate Professor
Assistant Professor
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Assistant Professor, Physics
Professor