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Sensing Applications
29 November 2023Lisa Langsdorf

Quantum Sensing pioneer, Philippe Bouyer, joins QDNL board

Philippe Bouyer is QDNL’s newly appointed board member and Director of Research & Technology. He has spent years researching and developing quantum technologies and is an innovator in the field of quantum sensing. You may already be familiar with him as the Coordinator of our Catalyst programme 3 on Quantum Sensing Applications, which will now be led by Clara Osorio Tamayo. 

"Philippe has already demonstrated his value for the quantum ecosystem as the energetic and visionary leader of the quantum sensing programme. We are delighted that we can now benefit from his expertise in quantum science and technology for the program as a whole”, said Carlo Beenakker, Chair of the QDNL Supervisory Board.  

We recently spoke with Philippe about his new role, his background in developing Quantum technologies, and what innovations he believes show potential in the Quantum ecosystem. Here’s what he had to say.  

I thought we could start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself. What is your background? What did you do before you came to Quantum Delta?

My background is in Quantum sensing. I came to the Netherlands last June, 2022. At this time I was in charge of the QDNL CAT 3 programme and later was appointed professor at the University of Amsterdam and soon as well at the Technical University of Eindhoven. I've been in Quantum physics for over 30 years. I did my PhD at Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, where I worked on research around cold atoms. Cold atoms are cooled with light at a temperature of micro Kelvin, which is magnitudes colder than the temperature of the Cryocooler that you have for a quantum computer.  

We were really motivated by fundamental aspects, like whether we could cool down the atom to a certain temperature and what the cooling limit was. Making atoms at micro Kelvin was already a challenge, and we used the atoms to do different types of experiments. We learned more about matter/wave interferometry where the so-called atoms do not behave like atoms anymore but like waves, as predicted by quantum mechanics. That's the wave/particle duality. You can manipulate these waves the same way you manipulate the light waves to make lenses, mirrors and detectors etc. Since then, I've been really working on what we call atom optics and atomic interferometry. 

In 2011, I also started a company on quantum sensing called MuQuans, which was recently sold to Exail. It delivers some of the best Quantum sensors in the world, some are currently sitting on top of the volcano to “listen” to its activity. 

So do you have family here in the Netherlands? What do you like to do during your personal time?

My wife is Dutch, we've been married for 25 years and we’ve known each other for more than 30. It’s the first time we’ve lived together in the Netherlands. I have three daughters. One who studied in Amsterdam and is  now working in the Netherlands and another who, just recently, moved to the Netherlands, and is studying in Rotterdam. The third lives in Paris. In my personal time, I love to cook. I try to make dishes or meals that take a part of the tradition that you can have in different countries and mix it together with others. It’s French food mixed with other cuisines.  


What will your day-to-day be like for your new role as a board member? What will you be doing?

Before this new position, as the scientific coordinator for the CAT 3 program, I oversaw the synthesis and analysis of the program, which is split into three test beds. My main role was to coordinate the team and develop a joint vision of how we could actually use the expertise and tools to provide new solutions and use cases for the Dutch ecosystem. My new title is Director of Research & Technology, and the role is to be an active member of the board. It's really a collective endeavor from all members to share their knowledge. Each of us has different backgrounds and expertise, and I think even if you want to do direct research and technology, it's good to have the feedback and the vision of all the board members.  

There are a couple of things I will be doing. Primarily, I will be working on the management aspect of Quantum Delta NL. For example, there is a trilateral initiative and other programs where you need not only expertise in international relationships, but to also have a vision about what can be done with respect to science and technology. In that case, I participate in the discussion as the expert on that part. Part of this is also about connecting to people to understand what the expertise is, what the efforts are, and where the opportunities lie.  

QDNL itself is such a coherent, innovative research and technology development initiative that can offer the overall vision and take the best from many places and then bring a cohesive vision of development.  

What do you think the Netherlands has to bring to the table?

I think we can bring a lot. Even though it's a small country, the Netherlands is strong in quantum science and technology, from superconducting quantum computers, to communication and sensing. Take a Quantum computer, for example. It needs more than just designing, building and testing innovative quantum chips. Most pictures you see do not show the image of the quantum computer itself, because the quantum computer is a small chip inside this big cryogenic fridge. The best pictures you have are of the fridge and the connections. Refrigeration is instrumental for quantum computing, not everything, but a lot relies on the capacity to build a very good cryogenic fridge. That takes out a lot of the energy that the chip will dissipate. The Netherlands is considered a world leader in this field, from the fridge to the chips. Same applies with photonics and integrated hybrid systems - a core part of a lot of quantum communication architectures as well quantum sensors. And that’s just a few among many other things that our scientists and engineers are bringing to the Dutch quantum ecosystem. 

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