Quantum computing will be the next tech revolution: scientist honoured with the H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal

Source: press release, 29 September 2020

Professor Charles Marcus receives the 2020 H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal in physics (photo: Niels Bohr Institute)
Professor Charles Marcus receives the 2020 H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal in physics (photo: Niels Bohr Institute)

The Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science is awarding an H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal in physics to Professor Charles Marcus. His research brings the world closer to applied quantum technology, which can become just as revolutionary as Hans Christian Ørsted’s discovery of electromagnetism two centuries ago. The award is made possible with the support of Ørsted.

The Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science (SNU) is honouring Charles Marcus, the Villum Kann Rasmussen Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and Director of the Copenhagen Microsoft Quantum Lab, with the society’s H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal in physics and an accompanying travel grant of DKK 75,000.The award coincides with the bicentenary of Hans Christian Ørsted’s discovery of electromagnetism. The gold medal and the travel grant were made possible by the support of the green energy company Ørsted.

The medal is awarded based on submissions from Danish universities and science institutions, and a committee consisting of five members of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters have reviewed the nominations.

Charles Marcus’ field of research is quantum coherent electronics. With 30 years of pioneering experiments, Marcus has played a key role in developing the field, which is now rapidly evolving towards outright quantum technologies that can harness and exploit quantum mechanics in the field of quantum computing. A quantum computer will base its calculations on principles different from those used by traditional computers, enabling it to solve certain complex problems much faster than currently possible.

The potential is too vast to fathom completely, but for example, quantum computers can simulate large, complex molecules, allowing medicines and vaccines to be designed by simulation rather than developed by discovery. Quantum-enhanced simulations can also help in the search for new materials with desirable properties, for instance a material that superconducts at room temperature and conveys electricity without resistance, avoiding the loss of power in our wiring today.

Professor Dorte Olesen, President of SNU, says, “Charles Marcus is the quintessence of a modern scientist and a highly deserving recipient of the H.C. Ørsted Gold Medal. Just as Hans Christian Ørsted himself, Charles Marcus is a world-class scientist and communicator with a keen eye for how his research can benefit society. He is the first non-Danish recipient of the gold medal and he brought an amazing academic background with him to Denmark, so he brilliantly exemplifies our country’s ability to attract some of the best researchers in the world.”

Charles Marcus also heads a remarkable working relationship between the University of Copenhagen and Microsoft, which have partnered to produce a topological quantum computer. The collaboration demonstrates Charles Marcus’ modern approach to research. He has realised that further technological development requires a financial and technological commitment from a multinational corporation such as Microsoft and the scientific expertise available at the university.

Henrik Poulsen, CEO of Ørsted and ambassador for HCØ2020, says: “When research and industry join forces, new opportunities arise, processes can be accelerated, and solutions can be directly applied for the benefit of society. Entirely in keeping with Hans Christian Ørsted’s spirit, Charles Marcus, the University of Copenhagen, and Microsoft have exploited these gains by collaborating to create a quantum computer capable of revolutionising the technology and helping us address both climate challenges and other problems we’re currently facing as a global community.”

Charles Marcus says, “I’m greatly honoured to receive a gold medal from the Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science for my research and efforts toward disseminating and advocating for science. I’m fond of seeing my work in quantum electronics as a natural extension of Hans Christian Ørsted’s discovery of electromagnetism 200 years ago, so I’m deeply honoured by this recognition from the Danish scientist’s own society.”