Eindhoven Hendrik Casimir Institute
During the opening of TU/e’s academic year on September 6th 2021, Robbert Dijkgraaf officially launched the new Eindhoven Hendrik Casimir Institute (EHCI). This fourth TU/e institute aims to enable a sustainable information society by uniting and building on the strengths of photonics of the Center for Integrated Photonics Eindhoven, and quantum technology of the Center for Quantum Materials and Technology Eindhoven (QT/e).
‘With this new institute, we combine our world-class research in integrated photonics with our strongly emerging position in the domain of quantum technology, opening up a wealth of new research and application possibilities,’ states scientific director Martijn Heck. ‘Our aim is to explore exponential technologies underlying our information society, with a strong focus on the required hardware. In order to come up with energy-efficient and secure broadband solutions to satisfy our ever increasing need for data, a holistic and synergetic view is essential. With our proven track records in the fields of Quantum Technology and Integrated Photonics, we are uniquely positioned to satisfy this demand.’
The institute will address three Grand Challenges, he explains. The first one covers energy-efficient and secure Communication. Three focus areas have been defined to cover this topic. Within the area High-bandwidth and energy-efficient optical interconnects, TU/e’s strong research lines in novel materials, photonic integrated circuits, and electro-optical communication systems come together. The topic Massively connected society will merge ultra-high-bandwidth networks with low-latency and mission-critical networks, forming a seamless larger-scale heterogeneous network.
This research has a strong foundation in TU/e’s research on optical components, interconnects and networks, signal processing and information theory. The final focus area for the Communication challenge is Quantum secure networks. Here, research topics vary from optical networks, interconnects and devices, control and security of cyber-physical systems, to coding and (post-quantum) cryptography.
EHCI Management Team: Erik Bakkers, Andrea Fiore, Servaas Kokkelmans, Martijn Heck (from left to right)
‘The second challenge we will address is about developing alternative Computing paradigms, based not on traditional transistors but for example on neuromorphic or quantum mechanical principles. Here, our aim is to develop novel technologies that can be competitive to incumbent technologies for specific applications.’ For this challenge, EHCI’s efforts will be dedicated towards developing a scalable quantum computing platform based on ultracold Rydberg atoms; increasing the coherence time of qubits, for example by using optical links to couple distant qubits coherently; and developing novel brain and biology inspired computing paradigms based on electronics, photonics and possibly, even the storage capacities of DNA.
The final challenge the institute will address is in the field of Sensing. ‘Building on quantum technology and photonics, we strive for ultimate precision in ubiquitous sensing,’ Heck says. Three areas will be addressed in particular: biomolecular sensing for point-of-care diagnostics, remote sensing of materials and structures, and atomic-scale multimodal metrology and imaging.
Though EHCI is first and foremost a scientific institute, it explicitly aims to work toward real world applications. Heck: ‘As a scientific institute we will focus on the lower Technology Readiness Levels, thus the excellent research. But here in Eindhoven, we are part of a strong ecosystem that enables us to bring our ideas to the market. Our job is to focus on ambitious and basic research that enables that ecosystem to take the next step.’
“I hope that in a few years’ time, new fields of research will have emerged on the interface between photonics and quantum technology, and new principal investigators will have built their own groups on exciting innovative topics that will help shape our future information society.”
Martijn Heck | Scientific Director
Heck is a proponent of the pragmatic approach. ‘I believe that we should develop technology that is compatible with existing plants, processes, people, and materials. We should not focus on devices made out of exotic materials that only function under lab conditions, but instead aim for robust, manufacturable and scalable technology that can function seamlessly in the real world.’
Just like the other three institutes, EHCI is an interdisciplinary institute that acts as a thematic umbrella over TU/e’s disciplinary departments. ‘The research is and will remain to be done within the individual departments,’ Heck stresses. ‘With this institute, we want to create synergy between the individual groups now working on adjacent fields in, for example, Applied Physics, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Materials Science.’ That synergy should lead to some concrete outcomes, as far as the scientific director is concerned. ‘I hope that in a few years’ time, new fields of research will have emerged on the interface between photonics and quantum technology, and new principal investigators will have built their own groups on exciting innovative topics that will help shape our future information society.’
Space for smart minds to change the world
‘This new institute will combine the mind blowing possibilities of quantum technology with the precision and speed of photonics.’ With these words, on September 6th 2021 Robbert Dijkgraaf officially launched the Eindhoven Hendrik Casimir Institute.
‘This is a fantastic new initiative,’ Casimir’s daughter Gerda commented. ‘My father was the embodiment of cooperation between industry and academia. Not only did he do amazing work at the Philips Physics Laboratory, he also was the first ever president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was convinced that smart minds should get the space to change the world. As his family we hope that this institute will work in his spirit, combining scientific curiosity with a tight cooperation with industry.’
More information: Eindhoven Hendrik Casimir Institute