Michael J. Biercuk, Ph.D.



Dr. Michael J. Biercuk is an experimental physicist and the Primary Investigator in the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney.  He holds a continuing (tenured) teaching and research appointment in the Faculty of Science at Sydney.  Michael’s specialties include quantum physics, quantum control, quantum error suppression, ion trapping, nanoelectronics, and precision metrology.

Michael was educated in the United States, earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and his Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Harvard University.  Following receipt of the PhD Michael served as a full-time scientific consultant to DARPA, the premier research funding agency in the United States, where he specialized in quantum information science and nanophotonic-enabled microprocessor architectures.  He then returned to the laboratory when he assumed a postdoctoral research appointment in the Ion Storage Group at NIST, Boulder.  In this capacity he led efforts in quantum control and spin squeezing using Beryllium ion crystals in a Penning trap. 

Today, Michael runs a research group performing cutting-edge experiments using trapped atomic ions as a model quantum system.  His expertise has been recognized by numerous technical appointments, awards, and media appearances.  He is a regular contributor to both the technical literature and the popular press, providing expert commentary on issues pertaining to science policy and the role of science in society.



Research experience:

Trapped ions:

While a member of the Ion Storage Group Michael’s work focused on experiments demonstrating precision quantum control using Beryllium ions in a Penning trap. He led efforts to set fidelity records for the precision of quantum control operations, the engineering of advanced microwave hardware systems, and the suppression of error in quantum systems.  The last project addressed a fundamental challenge in quantum science and engineering - how to preserve the “quantumness” of a given hardware system in a noisy environment.  This work provided the first experimental demonstration that it is possible to use optimized quantum control techniques to cancel the effects of an arbitrary and unknown noise environment.

Research at NIST also included the development of a diagnostic technique for the efficient study of motional modes in a crystal of trapped ions.  This technique uses the Doppler shift associated with ion motion in a near-resonant laser beam in order to detect externally applied forces. The “force-detection sensitivity” we realized - the smallest force we could detect normalized to a one-second averaging time - is more than 1000X better than any existing technology.  This work has reached the regime of yoctoNewton force detection (yocto = 1E-24), involving the lowest existing SI prefix, and paves the way for a new generation of deployable ultrasensitive ion-based force and field detectors.

Michael also contributed to a continuing effort aimed at the realization of large-scale entanglement and quantum simulation using Coulomb crystals.  The use of a Penning trap provides the advantage that ion arrays arise naturally without the need for extensive two-dimensional microtrap array fabrication.  Quantum mechanical correlations between the spin and motional degrees of freedom in ion arrays of about 100 particles have been observed, and efforts continue towards the deterministic production of large-scale spin-entangled states.


The work that Michael pursued as a graduate student focused on the engineering of nanoelectronic devices using carbon nanotubes - a molecular form of Carbon in the shape of a soda-straw with a diameter of just one nanometer (one billionth of a meter).  At these size-scales electrons exhibit distinctly quantum mechanical effects, such as the discretization of conductance, and the appearance of discrete “particle-in-a-box” energy levels.  Michael’s research dramatically advanced the state-of-the art in nanotube-based electronic devices for a variety of applications.  His work included the first demonstration of local electrostatic gating along the length of a nanotubes, the first demonstration of conductance quantization in a carbon nanomaterial, and the first realization of fully controllable double quantum dots in a carbon nanotube - the fundamental devices used in solid-state quantum computing.

Advanced Microprocessor Architectures:

In modern high-performance computer systems there has been a growing imbalance between total theoretical computational power and available communications bandwidth.  This imbalance has limited system functionality and required significant architectural tradeoffs.  While at DARPA, Michael contributed to an effort aimed at the realization of novel microprocesor architectures enabled by high-bandwidth, low-power, on-chip photonic networks.  This work gave rise to two DARPA programs led by Dr. Jagdeep Shah, UNIC and APS, both aiming to enable radically new processor architectures and capabilities by restoring a balance in system-level computational throughput and on/off-chip communications bandwidth.

All content copyright M. J. Biercuk, 2011, unless otherwise noted.