Voices from DARPA

Voices from DARPA

Episode 76: The Quantum Logician

February 29, 2024

In this episode we hear from quantum physicist Dr. Mukund Vengalattore, a program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, who oversees a portfolio of fundamental research programs aimed at unlocking new quantum insights and overcoming challenges to enable revolutionary capabilities for defense. These include harnessing atoms and superconducting structures for novel sensing applications (imagine tiny, super-sensitive antennas, infrared detectors or gyroscopes that vastly outperform much larger antennas, IR cameras, and gyroscopes of today); developing better quantum bits (qubits) for quantum computing (including using photons to encode information in novel ways); enabling field-deployable, tactical-grade mobile atomic clocks for our troops; and discovering new quantum materials for applications ranging from quantum computing to biomedical imaging.


We’re also joined by Dr. Mikhail Lukin, professor of physics at Harvard University, who led a team on Vengalattore’s Optimization with Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum devices (ONISQ) program that made a major quantum breakthrough published in Nature recently. Lukin’s team exploited characteristics of Rydberg neutral atoms tocreate logical qubits and used them to demonstrate the first-ever quantum circuit, a key step to advancing novel quantum computing architectures (Vengalattore provides a primer on the Rydberg atomic state). You’ll also hear about “optical tweezers” – which use laser beams that can be controlled to precisely grab and move around individual qubits without destroying their quantumness — and how they helped enable the breakthrough. To read more about the ONISQ logical qubit breakthrough visit: https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2023-12-06


Normally, we’d recommend you jump right into the episode, but this time, a primer may be helpful. We suggest starting with our recent Quantum Mechanic episode before you take a deep technical dive to the subatomic level for a fascinating window on the vast frontiers of quantum exploration… and potential applications in the real world.