ANU physicist named ACT Scientist of the Year

Publication date
Friday, 10 Aug 2018

The secure networks, artificial intelligence and new drugs of the future could all find their origins in a crystal, according to research by the 2018 ACT Scientist of the Year Dr Rose Ahlefeldt from The Australian National University (ANU).

Dr Ahlefeldt's research is trying to find the right materials to build the quantum memories needed for quantum computers. These computers could solve some of the world's "impossible" problems.

"The problem is we fundamentally don't have the materials at the moment that can reach the sort of data storage densities we need for quantum computers, so my work is to study new materials to find out how we're going to get there," Dr Ahlefeldt said.

"My work is using crystals containing rare earth ions to store quantum information, which starts off as pulses of light. We transfer the information from the light to the atoms in the crystal, creating a quantum memory.

"I am trying to understand how the atoms in the crystals interact with the light, so I can choose the right materials to make better quantum memories."

"One day we're going to build quantum computers that can solve problems that are impossible for our current computers. Researchers have already identified many uses for these computers, including enhancing artificial intelligence establishing secure communications and eventually building a quantum internet."

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC congratulated Rose on being named ACT Scientist of the Year.

"Rose is creating the building blocks that will help enable a quantum computer future. It's fantastic to see her fundamental and very important work recognised in this way," Professor Schmidt said.

"ANU and the ACT are at the forefront of advances in the quantum world, partnering will our colleagues across Australia as world leaders in technologies that are revolutionising the digital world."

Dr Ahlefeldt is a research fellow at the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

Footage and photos of Dr Ahlefeldt's research work is available upon request.