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CERN welcomes the International Year of Quantum Science and Technology

CERN welcomes the International Year of Quantum Science and Technology
CERN welcomes the International Year of Quantum Science and Technology

 


In the centenary of quantum mechanics — the foundation of particle physics and the enabler of many technologies CERN is contributing to the development of a new generation of quantum technologies for fundamental research and beyond.

100 years ago, a handful of visionary physicists overturned the notions about nature that had guided scientists for centuries. Particles can be point-like or wave-like, depending on how you look at them. Their behavior is probabilistic and at the moment may appear to violate cherished laws such as conservation of energy. Particles can be entangled so that one senses the other's change of state instantaneously, regardless of the distance between them, and, as happens with Schrdinger's famous cat, they can be in opposite states at the same time.

Today, thanks to pioneering theoretical and efforts to understand this complex realm, physicists can confidently navigate such seemingly irrational concepts. Quantum theory has not only become fundamental to physics, chemistry, engineering, and biology, but it underpins the transistors, lasers, and LEDs that drive modern electronics and telecommunications—not to mention solar cells, medical scanners, and global positioning systems. But this is just the beginning.

On June 7, the United Nations announced the year 2025 International Year of Quantum Science and Technology to celebrate the contributions of quantum science to technological progress, to raise awareness of its importance for sustainable development and to ensure that all nations have access to quantum education and opportunities. As the world's largest particle physics laboratory, CERN has been interrogating the quantum theories that govern the microscopic world for the past 70 years. More recently, she has ventured into the fast-growing field of quantum technologies, which aims to exploit the strangest aspects of quantum mechanics to build a new generation of quantum devices for fundamental research and beyond.

In recent years, we have learned not only to use the properties of the quantum world, but also to control them, explains Sofia Vallecorsa, coordinator of CERN's Quantum Technology Initiative (QTI). Today, the revolution is about controlling individual quantum systems, such as single atoms or ions, enabling even more powerful applications.

At CERN, quantum technologies are studied and developed through two initiatives: QTI, whose goal is to enable technologies such as quantum computing, quantum state sensors, time synchronization protocols, and more for high-energy physics activities; and the recently established Open Quantum Institute (WHITE), whose goal is to identify, support and accelerate the development of future societal applications that benefit from quantum computing algorithms.

One of the most promising fields is quantum computing. Unlike conventional computers that use bits that can only be in one of two states, quantum computers use qubits that can exist in overlapping states. This enables a large number of calculations to be processed simultaneously, providing important applications in fields such as cryptography, logistics and process optimization, and drug discovery. Quantum communication, which uses the principles of quantum mechanics to make it impossible to intercept information without detection, is another important area of ​​development. A third pillar of CERN's quantum technologies program is aiming to enable ultra-precise measurements of physical quantities, with potential applications in fields including medicine, navigation and climate science.

What began 100 years ago as a purely theoretical physics investigation is now beginning to reveal its full potential, says OQI coordinator Tim Smith of CERN. The International Year of Quantum Science and Technology will be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the past, present and future of our understanding of the quantum world.

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