NCCR "Quantum Photonics" (2001-2013)

NCCR Director: Prof. Marc Ilegems (2001-2005), Benoît Deveaud (2005 - 2013)

Home Institution: EPF Lausanne

Research in the NCCR and major results

The NCCR Quantum Photonics involved a Swiss network of scientists working on various aspects of quantum photonics. Due to the dual nature of light (particles and wave), many uses of the whole light spectrum can be made for technical applications. Basic and applied research is carried out on the various ways to use light for a specific function. Light can be generated, emitted, transmitted, modulated, switched, amplified, detected and sensed.

The group of Nicolas Gisin at the University of Geneva has made major advances in the field of quantum secure communications (often called quantum cryptography). The strong collaboration with the group of Hugo Zbinden and with the start-up company ID-Quantique has enabled them to transfer the research results to real life with, for example, the quantum secure transmission of the results of the Geneva elections through the Swisscom network. The group of Tobias Kippenberg is at the forefront of the novel field called Quantum Optomechanics: the quantum interaction of light with a mechanical oscillator. The group of Jérôme Faist has continually been obtaining new results of Quantum Cascade Lasers (QCL) over the 12 years of this NCCR. The progress towards the operation of a QCL at room temperature was transferred to the start-up company AlpesLaser. The group Benoit Deveaud has achieved the first demonstration of Bose Einstein condensation in the solid state with cavity polaritons, a new kind of quasiparticle in a solid. They also contributed very actively to the demonstration of the superfluid nature of polariton condensates.

Overview of NCCR projects and of participating research groups (PDF, 36 KB) (PDF)

  • Funding

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    The SNSF funded the NCCR Quantum Photonics with CHF 45.4 million. In addition, the home institution EPF Lausanne invested CHF 23.4 million. The participating research groups and institutes contributed about 38% of the NCCR budget.

    Funding 2001 - 2013

    Funding sources (CHF)2001 - 20042005 - 20082009 - 20122001 - 2013%
    SNSF funding18'039'32716'391'45710'928'06245'358'84634,4
    Self-funding by EPF Lausanne​7'743'3848'167'2807'469'11323'379'77717,8
    Self-funding by project participants14'503'51121'500'76813'826'63249'830'91137,8
    Third-party funding1'791'8798'304'3143'006'74113'102'934 10,0
  • International standing of Swiss research

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    Many of the projects of the NCCR Quantum Photonics were able to advance to the cutting edge of research worldwide. One indication of this is the fact that five of the PIs of this NCCR have been able to obtain an ERC grant.


    Peer-reviewed articles1956
    Articles without peer review​55
    Articles in anthologies199
  • Structural development – Perspectives for the research domain

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    Major investments have been made with the establishment of a several up-to-date facilities within the NCCR Quantum Photonics. A coordinated network has been organising new acquisitions and developing synergies to reach the state of the art in photonics technologies.

    Structural measures
    Number of created professorships
    • 5 new full professors
    • 4 new assistant professors
    • 2 replacements (i.e. retired professors replaced by professors participating in NCCR)
    Junior group leaders
    • 2 junior group leaders
    ​Infrastructure / platforms
    • Organisation of a new Condensed Matter Institute around former Quantum Electronics Institute at EPFL
    • FIRST nanolab at the ETHZ
    • IPMC clean room facilities at the EPFL
    • Growth machines facility at the EPFL
    • Cathodoluminescence facility at the EPFL
    • All tech-transfer "know-how" of the NCCR-QP was transferred to Swiss National Thematic Network "Swissphotonics"
    ​NCCR network
    • University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, University of Fribourg, EPF Lausanne, University of Bern, University of Basel, University of Geneva, University of Lausanne
  • Knowledge and technology transfer to society and industry

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    Technology transfer has been a constant process within the NCCR Quantum Photonics. This occurred with the creation of start-up companies, spinning off the activities of the groups. The NCCR also organised calls for TT options, where funding was provided for the most promising ideas, at the level of CHF 100,000 each. These projects had to involve a company. Start-ups and SMEs in the field of photonics have been the most reactive.

    Many of these projects have been very successful: With ID-Quantique, for example, the NCCR organised the first real-world quantum key distribution on a standard telecom network.

    Another example is the case of Attolight, a start-up company that marketed the first picosecond cathodoluminescence system. Attolight has evolved into a successful company with a very novel design for cathodoluminescence systems which holds great promise for the market with solar cells and high-power devices.

    Knowledge and technology transfer

    Filed patents36
    Start-up companies7
    ​Prototypes, demonstrators13
    ​Processes, products-
    CTI projects12
  • Promotion of young scientists and the academic careers of women

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    The NCCR Quantum Photonics actively promoted women and young talents. Just a few examples out of a long list: Ursula Keller, formerly PI of QP, is now one of the directors of NCCR MUST. Nicolas Grandjean and Tobias Kippenberg, hired as assistant professors within the NCCR, are now full professors at EPFL. Rachel Grange, a PhD student with the NCCR at ETHZ, did her postdoc at EPFL. She has now obtained a professorship at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany.

    106 PhD theses had been completed by the end-date of the NCCR Quantum Photonics; 26 were still in progress.