In the ancient days, human beings were happy with the Hellenistic models of astronomy. As more accurate observations on planetary motion were done by Tycho Brahe, more sophisticate theories were correspondingly brought about by the likes of Kepler and Newton. Then as Einstein came up with more elegant theories of relativity, more precise observations by the likes of Eddington were needed to verify such theories.

Science is a way for human beings to explain the things that we see; and observations are a way for human beings to verify our science. Since there are always limits to how much human beings can observe, there is always going to be corresponding limits to the accuracy of our science. To advance our science, it is important to also expand our limit of observation.

This is what quantum sensors are all about – building increasingly more sensitive and low noise detectors and amplifiers in order to see what we couldn’t see a generation ago.

Our group in Cambridge is focused on making quantum sensors using superconductors. These materials are promising because they generate very little loss and noise at low temperatures. I am personally focused on building low noise amplifiers using these superconductors. My work involves theoretical analysis using quantum physics, device design, device testing, and results analysis.

As the performances of quantum sensors improve every year, more and more cutting-edge science experiments are incorporating these devices to improve their observation capabilities – dark matter detection, axion search, millimeter-wave astronomy, quantum computing, x-ray spectrography, and etc. It is our hope that these little devices can help our human race to see what we used not to be able to see, and understand what we used not to be able to understand.

Songyuan Zhao

NanoDTC Associate, a2018