Zhejiang Lab

Zhejiang Lab Unveils Its First Large Scientific Apparatus

Is there any proof for the existence of CPT (Charge, Parity and Time Reversal) Symmetry Breaking? In addition to gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak interactions, is there a fifth force in nature? What are the better alternatives to current magnetocardiography (MCG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) techniques, such as magnetic resonance? Recently, Zhejiang Lab’s proposal to build a large quantum metrology apparatus has gone through project justification. As the lab’s first large scientific apparatus, it will provide strong support for the exploration of these frontier issues and significant tech innovation in relevant fields.

Use Extreme Perception to Establish China’s Standards for Precision

Centering around artificial intelligence (AI), Zhejiang Lab carries out basic research and tackles core technological problems in areas including intelligent perception, intelligent computing, intelligent networks, and intelligent systems, aiming to create a world-class basic research center for AI.

“Zhejiang Lab should build a novel ecosystem for AI technologies. We cannot just stay at the level of algorithm research, or simply use open source algorithms provided by foreign platforms for application development. In the future, the competition in the field of AI will be focused on basic research that deals with frontier issues. From a scientific point of view, true intelligence originates from the accurate perception of external information. Therefore, cultivating super perception is an important foundation for our lab, in order to create an ecosystem for AI technologies, which also explains our original intention to plan the development of a large quantum metrology apparatus,” said Zhu Shiqiang, Director of Zhejiang Lab.

When introducing the apparatus, CAS (the Chinese Academy of Sciences) member and the lab’s chief scientist Fang Jiancheng said, “We will invest 1.5 billion CNY to build a quantum metrology apparatus. Based on scientific principles such as the atomic spin effect, the atomic interference effect, and the photon momentum effect, the apparatus aims to achieve ultra-high-precision measurement for multiple physical quantities such as ultra-sensitive inertia, extremely weak magnetic fields, extremely weak forces, and absolute gravity. It will break the theoretical limits set by traditional measurement methods and establish high-level Chinese standards for measurement precision.”

Zhejiang Lab’s research team is justifiably confident it can achieve world-leading ultra-high-precision sensing and measurement. To build the apparatus, the project gathered experts from China’s best research teams, from organizations such as Beihang University and Zhejiang University, which have won many national awards for their contributions in research fields such as the measurement of inertia and extremely weak magnetic fields.

Promote the Integrated Development of Basic and Applied Research

According to the lab’s report, the large quantum metrology apparatus will facilitate scientists to explore frontier topics that are valued by the Nobel Prize and other awards of the same level, playing an important role in exploring the forefronts of physics by contributing to the study of issues such as CPT Symmetry breaking in the universe, new interactive forces, non-Newtonian gravitation, the nanogap Casimir effect, and the conversion between quantum and classical states.

“A large scientific apparatus is not only built to meet the lab’s research needs. We also hope that it can help us to attract the world’s top scientists to work at our lab and explore frontiers issues. In addition, we will use it to realize the transformation and application of technologies, facilitating the development of different industries,” said Zhu Shiqiang, Director of Zhejiang Lab.

The large quantum metrology apparatus is not only able to help us expand the boundaries of human cognition, but also have broad prospects for application. For example, it can largely improve the accuracy and precision of navigation, laser guidance, underwater positioning, medical detection, and gravitational wave detection.

Another main mission of this large scientific apparatus is using technological progress to improve people’s well-being. “The Quantum Sensing Research Center at our lab is currently working on a novel type of passive atomic magnetometer (fT level). It can directly measure the magnetic field produced by the brain while shielding against external magnetic fields, expected to achieve the functional measurement of the cranial nerve system. The research of applying SEFR (spin-exchange-free-relaxation) magnetometers to measure extremely weak magnetic fields produced by the brain and the heart might bring revolutionary technologies. These technologies can help us solve the problem of current measurement instruments such as MRI machines being unable to operate on special groups, such as infants and patients with metal parts in their bodies,” said the leader of a sub-project which aims to build a research apparatus to develop a novel type of non-destructive, high-resolution, and passive magnetometer.

Zhejiang Lab will build two world-class research apparatus for the measurement of magnetic fields produced by the brain and the heart, respectively. Combining its research outcomes with medical imaging technologies, it will endeavor to overcome the obstacles to measuring extremely weak magnetic fields produced by the brain and the heart.

“Institutional Innovation Is a Productive Force”

“If we plan and start from scratch, it often takes more than a decade for a large scientific apparatus to be built from conception to completion. Here at Zhejiang Lab, within less than two years of its founding, we already have two proposals for large scientific apparatus validated by project justification. The fast pace should be mainly attributed to the lab’s institutional innovation in scientific research. In our further plan, we have one more project to be initiated, one to be planned and one to be fostered,” said Zhu Shiqiang.

The proposal to build a large quantum metrology apparatus is the first one at the lab to pass project justification. To its quick start, CAS member Fang Jiancheng gave a crisp answer, “Institutional innovation is a productive force.”

“Zhejiang Lab has made a series of institutional innovations to address different phases of a project, including project identification, team building, project justification and establishment, and process management. The collaborative efforts of a large group have improved our research quality and accelerated our work. It only took us about six months to complete rounds of justification for various links of the project. When improving our efficiency, we also ensured our scientific rigor,” said Fang.

According to the lab’s report, the goal of the large quantum metrology apparatus is to take the lead in the world. By the end of 2020, the project team will have built up the research platforms for key technologies and completed the overall design of the apparatus. The actual schedule depends on the construction progress of the lab’s new campus. From 2021 to 2023, in new laboratories with better conditions and facilities, the team will continue to optimize the apparatus’ measurement precision and take the lead in the world.