The National Science Foundation is making a $29 million investment to help spur a new iteration of quantum sensing technologies.
Announced Tuesday, the funding will go to 18 research teams based out of U.S. universities, with each team awarded around $1 million to $2 million over four years.
Quantum Sensing is a promising technology that promises to measure changes in temperatures, motion, direction and other subatomic particle characteristics with precision.
The awardees’ focus areas include developing atomic clocks that can measure changes in Earth’s gravity field from different heights and investigating techniques to visualize inside living cells for advanced medical treatment.
“For decades, scientific exploration at the quantum scale has yielded surprising discoveries about how our universe works — and tantalizing possibilities for quantum-enabled technologies,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan in a press release. “We are now taking the next step in quantum research through these projects and others, which combine fundamental research with potential applications that can positively impact our lives, our economic prosperity and our competitiveness as a nation.”
Such robust public investment is sorely needed, according to private-sector leaders. Allison Schwartz is the Global Government Relations and Public Affairs Leader for D-Wave. The company uses quantum annealing to solve problems. She believes that federal funding should be directed towards more immediate quantum science applications.
“There’s little or no focus on using this technology near-term,” Schwartz said to Nextgov/FCW DefenseOne sister magazine.
Schwartz concedes that while basic research in emerging sciences and technologies like QIST is critically important, the U.S. needs to temper these efforts with a focus on applications to keep up with other countries’ efforts.
These fundamental research programs abound in the text of the National Quantum Initiative Act, which will need congressional reauthorization this September. Schwartz said that much has changed in the quantum technology landscape in the five years since the bill was signed into law, and renewed ratification should include an “expanded focus of near-term uses of the technology.”
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