Grant Will Help Simpson Students Conduct Quantum Physics Experiments

Simpson College has been approved for a $7,229 grant that will help provide equipment for a unique quantum lab where cutting-edge experiments can be conducted.

“This will bring our curriculum well into the 21st century and help prepare students for the quantum technology revolution that is on its way,” said David Olsgaard, a professor of physics and co-department chair of chemistry/physics.

The grant was approved by the Jonathan F. Reichart Foundation, which has provided more than $387,500 in new equipment over a three-year period to 27 schools.

Olsgaard is excited about the possibilities at Simpson.

The equipment will allow experiments to be performed on single photons, which provide the clearest view of the principles underlying quantum mechanics.

“Recent advances in laser and photon detection technology will allow us to do such experiments here in our labs at Simpson College,” Olsgaard said. “(We will) begin to educate our physics students in this field, a field destined to revolutionize communications, data storage and computing, not to mention the significant national security implications.”

Technological advances could make it impossible to hack or intercept computer data, he added. “These technologies are barely underway, but they hold the promise of a technological revolution that is about to begin.”

And Simpson students could be in the front lines of that revolution.

Olsgaard said new experiments will be incorporated in several Simpson courses, including those for first-year students.

“So, while freshman physics lab students at other schools are rolling balls down incline planes, our students will be proving the fundamental quantum nature of the photon.”

Olsgaard said he is planning four initial photon experiments, with more to follow.

“These experiments provide a hands-on experimental foundation to understand the fundamental principals of quantum encryption, quantum computing and quantum teleportation,” he said.