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Swiss quantum research boosted by alumnus

December 1, 2020

ETH Zurich is planning to build a highly specialised physics laboratory on the Hönggerberg campus, and a generous donation from alumnus and ETH Honorary Councillor Martin Haefner is key to taking this project even further.

Quantum research is now being developed at incredible speeds, and that it will soon be practical in quantum computing, quantum sensing, and quantum cryptography applications. However, complex infrastructure is still required for this type of research. The reason is that these experiments deal with fragile effects at the atomic level.

These experiments must be conducted in environments that reduce interference as much as possible. This is why ETH Zurich wants to build this research facility. The driving force of the project, Professor Gianni Blatter, explains this reasoning.

‘The planned building will allow us to push research to the limits of what is technically possible.’

Gianni Blatter, Professor of Theoretical Physics

Martin Haefner, ETH alumnus and Honourary Councillor of ETH Zurich, has donated 40 million Swiss francs to the ETH Foundation, all to give the ambitious project a boost.

Martin Haefner and Joël Mesot

‘I would like my donation to strengthen not only ETH Zurich, but the whole of Switzerland as a centre for research. This project is important for pioneering quantum research, and it will also deliver new findings in basic research.’

Martin Haefner, owner and Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Swiss automotive group AMAG

ETH President Joël Mesot is very pleased with Professor Haefner’s generosity and made a comment.

‘Thanks to this donation, we will be able to add a research facility to the Hönggerberg campus that is unparalleled in terms of the quality of its infrastructure and will enable ETH Zurich to further expand its leading position in quantum technologies.’

ETH President Joël Mesot

The new HPQ building is designed by Ilg Santer Architects, and it appears to be calm and orderly from an exterior point of view. The two-storey entrance floor is open to the public, and four floors are office and laboratory space for 18 professorships and almost 500 staff members in total. The centrepiece, however, lies below ground level. Three high-tech research platforms will be deep underground. Researchers will create new materials and electronic-optical components, conduct complicated laser experiments, and investigate ways to manipulate select atoms and ions as quantum objects in these platforms.

This design will minimise interference from external vibrations or electromagnetic waves in order to maintain precision and accuracy in the experiments. The highest standards of temperature stability and cooling capacity will also be met. Due to this, constructing it will require some particular demands.

‘This building will be home to innovative experiments – and it will be innovative in its own right, too.’

Gianni Blatter, Professor of Theoretical Physics

Externally, it will appear serene and make use of a lot of glass to blend in with the campus’ contemporary spirit. The idea is also to create an atmosphere of transparency. It will also blend in with the nearby Flora Ruchat Roncati garden, and a path to the garden will be built.

The new CLNE platform will be the embodiment of these high standards, and it is located deep within the building. The platform will host particularly sensitive and isolated experiments. There are massive concrete platforms supporting these test facilities to prevent moving trollies or buses from disturbing the equipment taking measurements.

However, it will take around eight years to begin operations, as it has not even been approved yet. Once approval is received, construction can commence. The plan is that 2022 will see the approval from the relevant authorities and the building can be finished in 2028.

About ETH Foundation

ETH Foundation promotes talented researchers and boosts relevant research projects at ETH Zurich to boost Switzerland’s technological might.

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