2015 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
Winner: Associate Professor Michael Biercuk, University of Sydney
Inventing a quantum industry for Australia
For particular applications, quantum computers could be more powerful than any machine using current technology.
But functioning quantum computers may still be a decade away.
Associate Professor Michael Biercuk, a physicist at the University of Sydney, is bringing some of those quantum benefits forward. He has:
- Reduced information loss from quantum information systems.
- Built a simulated quantum computer of 300 atoms, each storing one ‘quantum bit’ (quibit) of information, and smashing the 30–40 quibit threshold at which quantum simulators exceed the capabilities of current supercomputers.
- Set the record for the smallest force ever measured.
For contributions at the leading edge of quantum science research, Associate Professor Biercuk has been awarded the Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher.
A particular quantum computing roadblock has been the systems’ vulnerability, with even tiny environmental fluctuations corrupting the stored information. Associate Professor Biercuk and colleagues developed a method of error suppression that has been described as quantum computing’s Rosetta Stone for the transformational effect it will have on the field.
“Quantum computing is a field with enormous promise for Australia, and Associate Professor Biercuk’s research is capturing benefits right now,” Kim McKay AO, Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum said. “As an early-career researcher, Michael’s future is bright and indicates great opportunities for Australian science,” she said.
Utilising quantum effects on trapped ions, Associate Professor Biercuk set the record for the smallest force ever measured: at the level of yoctoNewtons, or a million-million-billion times smaller than the force of a feather pressing down on a table. The technology has potential for mining exploration.
Using quantum simulation he is also looking for the key to room-temperature superconductivity. Among other applications this has the potential to eliminate the significant losses of transmitting electricity, which in Australia consumes 6 or 7 per cent of electricity generated.
Established in 1827, the Australian Museum is the nation’s first museum and one of its foremost scientific research, educational and cultural institutions. The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Communication and Journalism, and School Science.
The other finalists were:
• Dr Sue-Ann Watson (James Cook University, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies), who has shown that clear water and better sunlight help coral better cope with climate change and ocean acidification.
• Dr Lee Spitler (Macquarie University and Australian Astronomical Observatory), who studies the Universe in its infancy and has discovered the oldest known galaxy cluster.
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