Aug. 11, 2021

Federal funding allows UCalgary researcher to investigate the base components of quantum computing

Shabir Barzanjeh’s lab will look into quantum bits and their use in quantum computer processors
Shabir Barzanjeh
Shabir Barzanjeh is leading a research project to develop qubits, or quantum bits, that can be used to design small and compact quantum processors.

A University of Calgary researcher aims to develop a crucial building block for powerful quantum computing thanks to funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

The main focus of the research project lead by Dr. Shabir Barzanjeh, PhD, is to develop qubits, or quantum bits, that can be used to design small and compact quantum processors.

Barzanjeh is one of 13 UCalgary scholars awarded support from the CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), announced by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry this week. The JELF helps researchers acquire tools and infrastructure that enable their work.

“This investment by CFI will enable our researchers to innovate using world-class tools and equipment,” says Dr. William Ghali, MD'90, UCalgary's vice-president (research). “Dr. Barzanjeh and his fellow recipients have a vision for a better future, and we are proud that they have been recognized as leaders in their field with the capacity to find solutions to complex global challenges.” 

In classical computing, everything is binary and based in zeros and ones, says Barzanjeh, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Science. "In quantum computing, you have access to much larger space to encode information and perform computation.”

The larger computational space is made possible by the qubits being introduced into the systems, as they exist in a mixed state of zero and one, otherwise known as a quantum superposition. Barzanjeh says this could lead to much more powerful computing than regular systems provide today.

“If you have better computers, you can do a lot more processing and interesting things,” he says.

For example, Barzanjeh says, quantum computers have the potential to model climate change, simulate chemical reactions to design new materials and drugs, and predict financial systems.

“This computation gives you a lot of freedom to do a lot of things which are almost impossible in classical computing,” he says.

Even if some of these things are already possible with classical computers, Barzanjeh says they require a huge amount of energy, hardware and time. “You can do some very complicated processing in a few seconds (with a quantum computer), versus a classical computer which could take a few years,” he says.

However, Barzanjeh says developing this type of computer is “extremely complicated,” as entirely new hardware and software need to be created.

Barzanjeh’s research is just the first step towards making these computers a reality.

His lab is also looking at the physical phenomena that occurs when these qubits interact in a system. Understanding these interactions will also help in the development of the quantum processors, he says.

Barzanjeh says the CFI funding will be used to purchase a cryogenic system, as qubits exist in very cold temperatures and are very sensitive to environmental losses and noises. A small portion of the funding will be used to purchase measurement devices to capture the signal coming out of the cryogenic system.

The funding of Barzanjeh’s project further solidifies UCalgary’s place as a leader in quantum research. The university recently partnered with the City of Calgary and provincial government on Quantum City with the hopes of attracting companies working in the quantum field to come to Calgary and leverage the university’s strength in the area.

“Quantum is the future, and I’m happy Calgary is on the leading edge of it,” says Barzanjeh.  

The UCalgary recipients of CFI JELF funding are:

  • Dr. Shabir Barzanjeh, PhD (Faculty of Science): Many-Body Quantum Optics Using Superconducting Circuits
  • Dr. Jennifer Corcoran, PhD (Cumming School of Medicine (CSM)): Processing bodies are central hubs of innate immune regulation, inflammation and tumourigenesis
  • Dr. Wayne S.R. Chen, PhD (CSM): Functional Ultrasound Imaging for Discovering Mechanisms and Treatments of Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dysfunction
  • Dr. Justin Deniset, PhD (CSM): Role of the innate immune system in cardiac homeostasis and repair 
  • Dr. Marco Gallo, PhD (CSM): Deconvolution of molecular heterogeneity in brain cancer
  • Dr. Pierre Kennepohl, PhD (Faculty of Science): Enabling Molecular Computing: Spectroscopic Evaluation of Molecular Computing Components
  • Dr. Rahil Khoshnazar, PhD (Schulich School of Engineering): Development and Performance Assessment of Eco-friendly Concrete Materials Incorporating Innovative Seeding Admixtures
  • Dr. Jihyun Lee, PhD (Schulich School of Engineering): Next-generation cable-assisted robotic machining system
  • Dr. Joon Lee, PhD (CSM): A Cloud Computing and Mobile Device Farm Facility for Health Data Science Research
  • Dr. Jennifer Love, PhD (Faculty of Science): Laboratory for high-throughput experimentation and kinetic investigation
  • Dr. Braedon McDonald, MD'13, PhD'13 (CSM): Microbiota-immune interactions and host defence against infections and sepsis
  • Dr. Sabrina Peric, PhD (Faculty of Arts): Stories of Energy Transition
  • Dr. Prism Schneider, MD'08, PhD'08 (CSM): Precision Medicine Approach to Trauma-induced Coagulopathy