The advent of quantum computers will allow humanity to create new types of fuel and make a breakthrough in medicine. This opinion is shared by the director of the Scientific Center "Functional Micro / Nanosystems" at the Moscow State Technical University. N.E. Bauman Ilya Rodionov. According to him, one of the main tasks of the laboratory headed by him is the development of devices for quantum computing. In an interview with RT, the scientist also spoke about the development of biosensors for diagnosing a human condition in real time.
How was your center created, what is it?
- The center was created not so long ago, five years ago. The idea of its creation is based on the development of devices based on new physical principles. We wanted to create technologies that do not yet exist in the world and that will benefit people.
11 leading world companies were involved in the creation of the center, which made it possible to provide the necessary infrastructure and the best equipment. The project was implemented rapidly, in just one year. Three months later, we started to develop technological solutions, on the basis of which all devices in the center are being created today.
The center is based on a "clean room" - an industrial room in which humidity, temperature, and the amount of particles in the air are controlled. These parameters are critically important because we are working with very small structures, about 10 nanometers in size, which are thousandths of the diameter of a human hair.
You are conducting research on the development of the element base for devices of a new generation: from quantum computers to biological sensors. What did you manage to do?
- I would single out three key areas in which our results have reached the world level and in some places even exceeded it. The center is the leading technological contractor for two of the largest projects in Russia in the field of quantum computing. Each of them develops its own element base: photonic chips based on the principles of nanophotonics and qubit circuits based on superconductors.
All leading laboratories in Russia dealing with quantum computing use our chips. In individual parameters, the functional elements of our devices demonstrate results that exceed the world level.
The second area is biotechnology. Several technologies have been developed for creating so-called laboratories on a chip. This is the direction that will help save lives in the future. We are developing portable devices that could diagnose a person's condition in real time and even carry out a therapeutic effect.
The third most important area is the development of sensor sensors and radiation sources. Over the past three years, we have set several world records at once, created biological sensors with record sensitivity to especially important markers. Some of these sensors can detect up to three particles of matter per trillion particles of matter in which they are dissolved. There are no such devices in the world today.
Together with our American partners, we manufacture structures on which single-photon sources are created. These are devices that are used in biology, quantum computing, and communications.
How is the work with students organized in the center? Do you get all or only the best of the best and for a specific project?
- The best of the best get here, and not only from our university. More than 90% of students and graduates of Baumanka, as well as guys from Moscow State University and Phystech, work in the center. We are open to students and graduates of all universities. By the way, I often say: "Guys, we have no students here." This means only one thing - everyone who gets here immediately works with practical problems. The basis of the Russian teaching method, for which Baumanka is famous, is teaching on real, "combat" tasks. Every student is our employee.
Everyone has access to equipment and materials, can they do something of their own?
- Individual pieces of equipment inside the "clean room" cost € 2-3 million. Therefore, of course, not everyone has access. Before you can independently work on such equipment, you must go through a multi-stage training system. The first test is an examination on the knowledge of the rules of behavior and work inside the "clean rooms".
Then the guys go through several stages of training abroad - either from an equipment manufacturer or in laboratories that are friendly to us. They study for a long time - to gain access to individual pieces of equipment, you need to study for about a year.
You mentioned that the chips made in your center are used in all the leading Russian laboratories engaged in quantum computing. How will your developments help in creating a quantum computer in the form of a real physical device?
“Building a quantum computer is an extremely difficult task. The development of integrated devices, processor chips is only part of the global quantum project. It also includes the most complex algorithms, the creation of special software, experimental cryogenic installations.
A large team of professionals from various universities and research groups is currently working on solving the set goals. Our task is to provide our colleagues with a high-quality element base, which will serve as the basis for a Russian quantum computer.
When and where do you think the first real functional universal quantum computer will appear? Why is its development important?
- It is difficult to predict where and when a quantum computer will be created. Experts from the world's leading laboratories and enterprises call the terms from 5 to 20 years. We have young employees in the center, but we are sober in our forecasts. Even 15-20 years is a very close time. The possibilities that a quantum computer will give are endless, they will completely change the life of mankind. Starting from drugs, medical equipment and ending with new energy, new materials.
Chances are that we will finally be able to defeat cancer. A large number of application areas require ultra-fast computing and simulation of quantum systems, which will make it possible to make a quantum processor. This is a great achievement of humanity, which will undoubtedly become a reality. And I hope it happens right here.
You spoke about the creation of biosensors and the development of technology for creating materials for them. Are there working prototypes, promising developments that you can talk about?
- Our pride is a new approach to the creation of epitaxial materials (materials with a perfect crystal lattice. - RT). Previously, they were made using very expensive methods. Our team managed to develop a relatively cheap technology, which we patented in the Russian Federation, and now we are issuing an international patent.
We learned how to create epitaxial silver, on which scientists around the world have been working unsuccessfully for the past 60 years. A number of unique plasmonic devices have been created on the basis of silver: a radiation source, a sensor with a record sensitivity, detectors of biological markers for the determination of cardiovascular diseases.
The same technology is applicable to other metals used in biosensorics and in single-photon sources. For example, based on epitaxial aluminum, we make superconducting qubits. Our solution turned out to be truly universal.
Tell us about the role and significance of nanophotonics. Why does Russia need to develop this direction?
- Electronics has been developing very rapidly over the past decades. The carriers in these devices are electrons. But the electron is inherently limited. Photonics, on the other hand, gives us the opportunity to work with another information carrier - a photon that can be controlled.
Light is the fastest we have. More perfect carriers are still unknown to mankind. Therefore, we consider everything related to nanophotonics to be extremely promising. These are new types of computing devices, new biological devices, a whole range of applied directions.
You have already mentioned the "laboratory on a chip". What is it, how can it be applied or is it already being applied?
- “Laboratory on a Chip” - an attempt to change the basis of work in the field of biomedical analyzes. For example, in order to get a blood test today, we go to the laboratory and take a sample. Then for some time - several hours or several days - we wait for the result. So, in the "laboratory on a chip" work with samples is transferred to the micrometer level, to the microscale. This allows you to radically speed up all processes.
It will be possible to assess our condition in real time. We will carry in our pockets some kind of device that will say that everything is fine. Or, for example, that the level of cholesterol is exceeded or another important indicator.
What gadgets will a person use in the near future? What will replace the existing "smart watches"?
- If we imagine that a quantum computer and devices of the “laboratory on a chip” type have been created, which have “on board” photonics devices, with which we are actively working, then our “smart watches” can be turned into a working data center with a power greater than any supercomputer on earth now. And this is just the beginning.
Why don't cars fly? Because we do not have a source of fuel that would allow us to keep the engines running for a long time. A vertical takeoff jet exists, and such an engine could be put into a car. However, this will require an entire tank of fuel.
A quantum computer will make it possible to calculate substances with predetermined properties and create new sources of fuel. With the advent of the things that we are doing at the center today, a lot of new technologies will come, and all these fantastic Star Wars films will be close to reality after a while.