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Thursday, 14 February 2019

Quantum breakthrough awarded

UNIT: The Quantum Physics Research Group at CPUT are (l-r) Jordan Scarrott, Victory Opeolu, Adrian Wyngaard, Dr Kessie Govender, Rory Pentz and James Lawrence. UNIT: The Quantum Physics Research Group at CPUT are (l-r) Jordan Scarrott, Victory Opeolu, Adrian Wyngaard, Dr Kessie Govender, Rory Pentz and James Lawrence.

CPUT’S Quantum Physics Group has won a Project Progress Award for their outstanding headway over the last year.

The CSIR National Laser Centre’s Rental Pool Programme awarded the Group the award two weeks ago at their annual review meeting.

The Centre runs a laser equipment access programme, funded by the Department of Science and Technology, to make laser systems, laser diagnostic equipment and laser laboratories available to higher education institutions. Programme participants deliver annual progress reports as part of the evaluation process to determine whether project funding continues in the next financial year.
Quantum Physics Group founder/leader Dr Kessie Govender was in Pretoria two weeks ago to deliver his progress report, but did not attend the meeting’s Monday night dinner. So, he was surprised to be met the next morning by people congratulating him for winning an award.

“I was blown away, I was speechless actually,” said Govender, who lectures in the Electrical Engineering Department. “I do the work because I enjoy it, not for the accolades. The award is for being able to achieve something that very few people in the country have been successful doing.”

The first time Govender applied for this particular Programme in 2015 he was initially rejected with the Quantum Physics Group’s goal of developing local components for quantum computing deemed as too difficult.

He succeeded the next year though and the Group learned to not only use the equipment but expanded their electronic set-up. They made a breakthrough in October last year when they successfully cooled down a cloud of rubidium atoms to around 17 micro Kelvins, which is approximately - 273 degrees Celcius below zero.

The Group consists of doctoral students Adrian Wyngaard and Rory Pentz; Master’s students Victory Opeolu and James Lawrence; and BTech student Jordan Scarrott. Govender says this year the Group will be exploring publishing in various journals and publications and also starting work on an atomic clock. Govender is also part of a group of researchers working on A Quantum Technology Roadmap for South Africa, a proposal they want to make to the Department of Science and Technology on the way forward for the country’s quantum technology researchers.

Written by Theresa Smith

Email: smitht@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.