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Quantum Science Center hosts principal investigators meeting

Participants gathered at ORNL from October 17 to 20 for a series of in-depth discussions regarding the center’s past, present and future. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

In late October, principal investigators affiliated with the Quantum Science Center, a U.S. Department of Energy National Quantum Information Science Research Center, gathered in person and online at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to highlight the center’s completed milestones, evaluate progress toward long-term goals, and plan future research activities.

QSC Director Travis Humble opened the meeting by asking attendees to consider how the QSC has demonstrated scientific leadership in each of its three research areas – quantum materials discovery and development, quantum algorithms and simulation, and quantum devices and sensors for discovery science – both individually and in coordination with each other.

“Integrating efforts from all the center’s research projects allows us to answer questions that none of us could address on our own.”

- Travis Humble

In the following days, the PIs reviewed key accomplishments and synchronized road maps for QSC innovations. Topics included the design and characterization of topological quantum materials, the development of new quantum sensors aimed at assisting the ongoing global search for dark matter, and the implementation of more efficient quantum algorithms and hardware to enable more detailed computer simulations of scientific applications.

Throughout these conversations, participants shared numerous examples of successful coordination among various projects and research disciplines within the QSC. These project integration efforts motivated the PIs to translate complex scientific results into understandable information that can be broadly disseminated through lectures and other media channels.

Attendees also emphasized the value of research tracking tools that measure both scientific progress and the impacts of scientific breakthroughs. Currently, the QSC is developing techniques to track the effectiveness of a new development cycle for devices made with quantum materials.

A key outcome of these discussions was a series of future-focused talks that illustrate upcoming research opportunities and technical challenges. For example, speakers stressed the importance of accelerating the iterative development of materials that are essential to the construction of new quantum technologies – a task that will require innovative manufacturing methods.

Although COVID-19 safety restrictions capped the in-person gathering at 50 people, many more QSC members joined the meeting virtually. This hybrid format ensured that all attendees could provide input, including plans to advance research within the center and in the broader quantum information science community, which will be presented in February 2023 during a DOE review at the midpoint of the center’s five-year lifetime.

“Our research thrusts align with our research goals, and we have a good story to tell,” Humble said. “Developing new tools and growing collaborations between projects will be critical components going forward.”

The QSC, a DOE National Quantum Information Science Research Center led by ORNL, performs cutting-edge research at national laboratories, universities, and industry partners to overcome key roadblocks in quantum state resilience, controllability, and ultimately the scalability of quantum technologies. QSC researchers are designing materials that enable topological quantum computing; implementing new quantum sensors to characterize topological states and detect dark matter; and designing quantum algorithms and simulations to provide a greater understanding of quantum materials, chemistry, and quantum field theories. These innovations enable the QSC to accelerate information processing, explore the previously unmeasurable, and better predict quantum performance across technologies. For more information, visit

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit