Benefactor Pledges 40 million Swiss Francs to Build a Cutting-Edge Quantum Research Facility at ETH Zurich

ETH quantum facility
ETH quantum facility

Benefactor Pledges 40 million Swiss Francs to Build a Cutting-Edge Quantum Research Facility at ETH Zurich

ETH quantum facility
ETH Zurich is planning a highly specialized physics laboratory building on the Hönggerberg campus. (Image: Ilg Santer Architekten / ETH Zurich)

A benefactor is pledging 40 million Swiss francs to build a cutting-edge quantum research facility at ETH Zurich, according to a university news release. The facility — which should be finished in about eight years — won’t just be a center of quantum research at ETH Zurich, but, hopefully a global research facility that makes Switzerland an international center of quantum research.

In recent years, quantum research has developed at breakneck speed. Scientists believe that quantum phenomena in the fields of computing, sensor technology and cryptography will soon facilitate novel technological applications. However, research in this field relies on highly complex infrastructure, because it takes extremely elaborate experiments to detect these fragile effects at the atomic level.

“The planned building will allow us to push research to the limits of what is technically possible.”

It is essential for such experiments to be performed in an environment that keeps interference to an absolute minimum. That is why ETH Zurich is planning to erect a research facility designed to be ideal for this purpose. “The planned building will allow us to push research to the limits of what is technically possible,” said Gianni Blatter, Professor of Theoretical Physics and the driving force behind the project.

Enhancing Switzerland as a Research Center
ETH Foundation
Martin Haefner and Joël Mesot. (Image: Valeriano di Domenico / ETH Foundation)

Martin Haefner, ETH alumnus and Honorary Councillor of ETH Zurich, is now taking the project that decisive step further by donating 40 million Swiss francs to the ETH Foundation. “I would like my donation to strengthen not only ETH Zurich, but the whole of Switzerland as a center for research,” said the owner and Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Swiss automotive group AMAG, continuing: “This project is important for pioneering quantum research, and it will also deliver new findings in basic research.”

ETH President Joël Mesot is very pleased with the generous gesture: “Thanks to this donation, we will be able to add a research facility to the Hönggerberg campus that is unparalleled in terms of the quality of its infrastructure and will enable ETH Zurich to further expand its leading position in quantum technologies.”

Underground Centerpiece

Designed by Ilg Santer Architects, the new HPQ building appears calm and orderly from the outside. Above the two-​story entrance floor, which is open to the public, four floors provide office and laboratory space for 18 professorships with a total of almost 500 staff. But the new building’s centrepiece is underground: three high-​tech research platforms will sit deep in the earth below. This is where researchers will produce new materials and electronic-​optical components, conduct sophisticated laser experiments and investigate how to manipulate specific atoms and ions as quantum objects.

By virtue of its design, the new building will minimize interference from external vibrations or electromagnetic waves. It will also meet the highest standards of temperature stability and cooling capacity. This places exacting demands on the construction. “This building will be home to innovative experiments – and it will be innovative in its own right, too,” Blatter notes. This is particularly true for the new CLNE platform, located in the very depths of the building, where it will be possible to conduct particularly sensitive, highly isolated experiments. These test facilities rest on massive concrete platforms to prevent any passing trolley buses or lorries from disturbing their sensitive measurements.

Expected to be Finished in 2028

However, researchers will have to wait a while before they can use the new infrastructure, as the project is currently awaiting approval. If everything goes according to plan, construction can begin in 2022 and the building will be ready in 2028.


Matt Swayne

Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses.

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