“That feeling of “Eureka! We’ve got it!” is what it’s all about”

Senior scientist in the optics department Anna Tchebotareva conducts top-notch research for programmes including QuTech. A joint research and development programme in the field of quantum computers, quantum communication and quantum technology, QuTech involves researchers from TU Delft, TNO and industry partners. While the practical application of quantum technology is still some way off, the focus is firmly on products for the future.

“I hold a PhD in experimental physics and have spent my academic career studying optics in the broadest sense of the word. My background enables me to contribute to knowledge development at TNO on a regular basis. I have always been fascinated by light and the many ways in which light can be used. My area of expertise is the interaction between light and matter, nanophotonics, and non-linear properties of material, but my interests are broad-based. This benefits my cooperation with experts from other disciplines and helps me build bridges.”

Ultrathin conductors

“In 2016 I worked on a project to develop a new method for producing ultrathin conductors for screens used in smartphones and other consumer electronics. We used ink made of nanoparticles and illuminated the area where we wanted to position a conductive strip using a laser. Removing the unexposed ink leaves strips that are only a single micron in width, yet still function well as conductors. As this process does not require a mask, fewer steps are needed. The resulting process is simpler and more flexible than the current technology, which makes it very appealing.”

Eureka!

“I currently devote roughly three-quarters of my time to research for QuTech. To take the quantum technology developed by TNO and TU Delft to the next level, we have to find a way of sending quantum information across great distances. The single photons produced by Professor Ronald Hanson’s QuTech research group serve as carriers of this quantum information, but they are severely weakened as they pass through standard glass fibres. One option is to convert the wavelength of the photons that carry quantum information to the wavelength of the optical fibre. We are currently trying to demonstrate that the quantum properties of photons do not get lost in this process. This is not a new concept. A number of studies have already been published on the topic. But we are the first to use defects in diamonds as a source material. The first results clearly indicate that we are on the right track. That feeling of “Eureka! We’ve got it!” is what it’s all about. The next step is to make the process more robust and user-friendly.”

Products for the future

“At QuTech we do top-notch fundamental research in an environment that is focused on the possible applications. It’s a place where fundamental research, industry and product-driven developments truly come together. I see a wide range of possibilities for using quantum technology and photonics. Our research is still at the development stage, but our aim is to deliver products for the future, with applications in a wide variety of areas including communication, medicine, and defence. I am delighted that my work is contributing to the development of new technologies, such as quantum technology, which can lead to further progress. It’s so exciting to be involved from the very first stage, which consists of a purely scientific idea, and to help this develop into an application that will benefit the society of tomorrow.”

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Expertise

Optics

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