The world’s first programmable quantum photonic chip, created by researchers  at the University of Bristol, is part of a new permanent exhibition at the Science Museum.

The Winton Gallery opened this month to bring mathematics to life through remarkable stories, artefacts and design, and includes over 100 treasures from the Science Museum’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics collections which will show how maths has evolved over the years.

bristol-university-optical-chipResearchers at the University of Bristol’s Quantum Engineering Technology Laboratories (QETLabs) developed the chip using light to perform calculations, relying on the quantum properties of entanglement, superposition and the absolute randomness of quantum and is reproducible by no other means.

“Quantum computers promise to be unimaginably powerful, and will allow us to tackle some of the hardest computing problems and could lead to new discoveries in pharmaceuticals, energy harvesting and artificial intelligence,” said Mark Thompson, Professor of Quantum Photonics at Bristol who led the development of the chip.

He adds, “Advanced quantum computers could one day be used for code-breaking and deciphering messages. The microchip device on display at the Science Museum was our first programmable quantum processor. Since then the technology has developed to include quantum-sensing devices, quantum-secured communications systems and more advanced quantum processors. World-wide, quantum technologies are progressing rapidly and many believe we are at the dawn of a quantum technology information revolution.”

Later versions of the technology will be used as part of Bristol is Open, the terabit networking testbed that runs across the city.

“In the next year, miniature chip-based quantum devices will be deployed across the Bristol Is Open metro-area testbed as part of the UK National Quantum Communications Hub,” said Eric Johnston, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Centre for Quantum Photonics. “Even though quantum computers will have the power to challenge our internet security, a near-term solution is being developed which uses quantum random numbers to replace the pseudo-random numbers currently in use in everyday cryptographic schemes. ”

You can see more about the display in the video below:

To celebrate the launch of the new gallery, the University has created an online and free-to-use quantum decision maker application which can be downloaded from

Nick Flaherty