QUEST: Quantum for Energy Systems and Technologies

Quantum Information Science (QIS) is expected to profoundly change the practice of science and engineering in the coming decades. QIS technology exploits quantum phenomena for performing tasks that are impossible to do today, such as finding prime factors of large numbers or elucidating reaction mechanisms in complex chemical systems. It is a rapidly progressing field, fueled by large investments from the private sector and governments. Its importance to the U.S. economy and national security is underscored by the National Quantum Initiative Act passed in December 2018, which creates a coordinated multiagency program to support research and training in QIS.

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The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has launched an initiative in Quantum Information Science & Technology (QIST) for applying QIS to problems encountered in energy technology development. Potential areas of application include subsurface engineering; sensors and detectors; power plant, electrical grid, and cybersecurity; materials development; emission control system design and optimization; and power plant operation and control. Activities to date include the following:

  • QUEST Technical Working Group. Established a workforce capable of developing, reviewing, managing, and advising on QIS-related technologies for NETL and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (DOE-FECM). Group members, along with their supervisors, will develop a training strategy to establish enough competency for proposing, executing, and managing research projects within a one- to three-year timeline.

  • Quantum Sensing Project. Started a seed project to pursue selected near-term research and development (R&D) opportunities for quantum sensing to impact the DOE-FECM mission:

  1. Integrate quantum sensing materials for chemical sensing in subsurface monitoring (e.g., pH, carbon dioxide [CO2], etc.), natural gas infrastructure monitoring (e.g., pipelines, methane [CH4]), and rare earth element detection. Emphasis will be placed on low-cost quantum sensing materials that can be produced from coal byproducts.
  2. Leverage quantum squeezed and entangled photons for optimizing performance of distributed interrogation methodologies for the optical fiber sensor platform.

nano diamond

Left: White circle denotes nanodiamond in metal-organic framework (MOF). Right: ZIF-8 growth solution with varying concentrations of the polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP)-functionalized nanodiamonds. The cloudiness is consistent with ZIF-8 formation, aided at room temperature by the PVP ligand.

Nitrogen vacancies in nanodiamonds represent an intriguing quantum material with potential applications in quantum sensing and computing. At NETL, we are designing and investigating composite materials in which nanodiamonds are encapsulated in the metal-organic framework (MOF; ZIF-8), which may be used to create a well-defined chemical environment around the nanodiamond and enhance its performance in these applications. Furthermore, the MOF may also act as scaffold for incorporating and positioning the nanodiamonds for nearest neighbor entanglement applications.

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