Quantum Technologies Pathway
Quantum mechanics plays an important role in many of today’s optical and electronic devices, and it provides a new paradigm for the future of computing. Whether trying to mitigate or leverage quantum effects in existing technology or engineer new devices based on quantum mechanical principles, a solid foundation in quantum mechanics is required for tomorrow’s device engineers.
Students in the Quantum Technologies pathway will gain a foundation in quantum mechanics for both classical and quantum applications and receive hands-on access to quantum hardware for training in quantum technologies. The UW Graduate Certificate in Quantum Information Science and Engineering provides a more comprehensive curriculum at the graduate level, so with that in mind, undergraduate students should use the Quantum Technologies pathway to augment another BSECE pathway.
This pathway is a good fit for students who are interested in:
- Quantum computing
- Quantum communication
- Electronic devices exploiting the wave nature of electrons and quantum tunneling
- Photonic devices that can operate at single photon levels
- Becoming a key contributor in making quantum technologies scalable and practical
- Working in emerging research fields with UW ECE faculty invested in quantum technologies
Does a student need a graduate degree specializing in this area to be marketable to industry?
No. Because quantum technology is an emerging field, most positions utilizing quantum mechanics for new technologies require a graduate degree. However, a knowledge of quantum mechanics as applied to classical devices can help students who are following the Microelectronics and Nanotechnology pathway, the Photonics pathway, and the Sensing and Communication pathway.
What are some examples of quantum technologies applied to the real world?
- Creating fundamentally secure communication and breaking current codes
- More accurate simulation of materials for a wide range of applications (chemistry, energy, medicine)
- Stimulated emission for lasers and lasing
- Efficient photovoltaic solar cells
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Quantum tunneling in diodes
- Sensors for nuclear non-proliferation
- High-speed oscillators based on resonant tunneling diodes,
- Microscopes that can probe feature sizes smaller than what optics allows (scanning tunneling microscopes)
- Terahertz generators and detectors based on multiple quantum wells
Does quantum technologies touch on global impact, equity and/or quality of life?
Devices based on quantum mechanical effects are already commercial, transforming lighting and classical computing. It is now generally believed that quantum computing will one day significantly expand this impact. Full-scale quantum computing and networks are expected to advance materials for clean energy, agriculture and medicine, advance device and material optimization, and provide fundamentally secure communication. This is why the U.S. government passed the National Quantum Initiative Act to provide the continued leadership of the United States in quantum information science and its technology applications.
Areas of Impact
Air and Space
A key quantum technology central to navigation is the atomic clock, which enables the Global Positioning System (GPS). Quantum sensors can also provide unprecedented performance for inertial navigation systems.
Computing Data and Digital Technologies
Computing and digital technologies would not exist without the scientists and engineers who deeply understood the underlying physics of operation associated with diodes, transistors, and other semiconductor devices. Now, in the 21st century, similar minds and expertise will be needed, particularly in engineering, to bring novel ways of harnessing quantum physics for the next generation of classical devices and quantum computing.
Environmental Sustainability and Energy
Quantum technologies are poised to impact environmental sustainability by advancing:
- Materials for clean energy and catalysts for sustainable agriculture
- Optimization protocols for efficient power distribution
- Highly efficient sensors for environmental monitoring.
Health and Medicine
Quantum computers are expected to speed up the discovery of new medicines. The atoms in a molecule are quantum mechanical, thus making the calculation of a molecule’s properties exponentially difficult on a classical computer. The utilization of quantum computers for drug discovery is emerging today with clinics just starting to explore this possibility at a basic research level.
Infrastructure, Transportation, and Society
Moving to more energy-efficient transportation (including superconducting magnetic levitation trains) will require breakthroughs in materials, which will be accelerated by quantum computers.
Related Career Paths
The UW Graduate Certificate in Quantum Information Science and Engineering provides a more comprehensive curriculum at the graduate level, so with that in mind, undergraduate students should use the Quantum Technologies pathway to augment another BSECE pathway. With a graduate degree or equivalent experience, available industry jobs include positions such as:
- Quantum engineer
- Research software engineer
- Microwave and cryogenics technician
- Research scientist
- Process or test engineer
- Optics engineer
- Integration engineer
- RF engineer
Quantum Technology Courses
When planning for courses, review projected course offerings here and be sure to check all course prerequisites (course titles below link to the catalog course description, which includes prerequisite information).
These courses are suggested for those following the Quantum Technologies pathway but are not required to complete the BSECE degree program:
Over the long history of electrical engineering in the United States, Maxwell’s equations have remained a cornerstone to understanding key electrical engineering technologies, including Wi-Fi, 5G, Bluetooth, as well as a myriad of other ways to send and receive data, voice, and images wirelessly. Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are also the primary way quantum bits are controlled. This course is application-oriented and designed to develop a fundamental understanding of how these electromagnetic technologies work.
EE 400 is an Advanced Topics in Electrical Engineering course that may be offered with the topic of “Introduction to Quantum Hardware.” See quantum mechanics in action. This lab course allows you to implement secure communication schemes, verify quantum entanglement, and control single qubits. Qubit systems include photons, spins, and ions. Prerequisite course is PHYS 225 or EE 421.
The focus of this course is to introduce students to quantum mechanics using 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials and quantum computing. Students will develop a working knowledge of qubits, quantization in quantum dots/wells/wires and band structure. Applications will focus on qubits, nanodevices, nanomaterials and the basics of quantum information. In this course, students will get to use Qiskit, IBM’s software on quantum computing/information.
EE 400 is an Advanced Topics in Electrical Engineering course that may be offered with the topic of “Introduction to MEMS.” This course includes theoretical and practical aspects in design, analysis, and fabrication of MEMS devices. It also provides an overview of fabrication processes, including bulk and surface micromachining. MEMS design and layout are covered, as well as MEMS CAD tools, and mechanical and electrical design. Applications are discussed, such as microsensors and actuators, or chemical and thermal transducers, and an overview is provided of recent developments in MEMS.
PHYS 225 — Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (*does not count toward Adv. ECE Electives)
This one quarter introduction to quantum mechanics emphasizes two-state systems — qubits! This course will offer the foundation in quantum mechanics needed to move on to more advanced optics in quantum technologies. Note that PHYS 123 is no longer a prerequisite for this course.
EE 299 — Intro to Nanotech (*does not count toward Adv. ECE Electives)
EE 299 is an Introductory Topics in Electrical Engineering course that may be offered with the topic of “Introduction to Nanotechnology.” This course introduces quantum mechanics and electromagnetics using basic knowledge of linear algebra and introduces emerging electronic and photonic devices exploiting nanotechnology. We explore a top-down fabrication approach to nanotechnology from an electrical engineering and physics perspective.
While there is no area-specific capstone for quantum technologies, industry-sponsored capstone projects that require quantum expertise can be completed through the ENGINE capstone course sequence (see description below), or alternatively, pursued in the labs of individual faculty conducting research in state-of-the-art quantum applications.
The Engineering Entrepreneurial Capstone program (ENGINE) is the culmination of a student’s electrical and computer engineering education at UW ECE. The program provides a unique opportunity for students to develop skills in collaborative systems engineering, project management, and most importantly, working in teams on real-world problems from industry-sponsored projects. The program is overseen by UW ECE faculty and students are guided by practicing engineers. The course culminates in a showcase of student projects, which is attended by industry sponsors and held at the end of spring quarter every year.
- The UW Graduate Certificate in Quantum Information Science and Engineering provides a more comprehensive curriculum at the graduate level, so with that in mind, undergraduate students should use the Quantum Technologies pathway to augment another BSECE pathway, such as:
Enriching Your Path
There are several other quantum courses offered at UW ECE, including: