17 February 2022 Stéphanie Dubreuil
IQ’s Quantum FabLab

Optimizing resources, reducing costs and facilitating interactions

Karl Thibault and Mathieu Juan

Photo : Michel Caron - UdeS

Université de Sherbrooke’s (UdeS) various platforms bring together resources to optimize their use and accessibility for the academic community, as well as to reduce the costs, which are often very high, associated with them. The Quantum FabLab (QFL) of Institut quantique (IQ) is among these platforms.

What is a “FabLab”?

The term “FabLab” generally refers to a laboratory where various equipment is made available to a community to perform fabrication, characterization, measurement, and prototyping. The goal of such a concept is to minimize costs, maximize the use of resources and encourage interaction. The IQ FabLab differs somewhat from the general term as there is no device fabrication as such that takes place there, as compared to the Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT).

Why include a FabLab in the new IQ building?

Usually, each research group has its own laboratory, in which its own equipment is located. Although available at all times, few groups make such use of it. The purpose of the QFL is to pool this expensive equipment in order to make research more efficient, but also more sustainable, because by regrouping resources, we reduce purchases and optimize their use. The platform also allows different research groups to interact, collaborate and share their expertise, phenomena that would inevitably be less likely if each group remained in its respective laboratory.

In addition to optimizing resources and reducing costs, the QFL provides peace of mind to researchers because it is entirely managed by IQ, which means that the platform takes care of the maintenance and reservation of equipment. The QFL coordinator, Karl Thibault, is the one in charge of the platform’s administration. He is responsible for setting up policies, training, reservations, billing and purchases, as well as facilitating meetings of the management committee with the faculty. For his part, Professor Mathieu Juan, director of the FabLab, is in charge of forging new links with government bodies, universities and businesses, as well as ensuring the sustainability of the platform. “The QFL is a unique infrastructure that greatly lowers the barrier of entry for cutting-edge research in quantum science and technology. Through this platform, we make available world-class equipment and expertise to the scientific and industrial community.  The key point of our vision is to provide a collaborative space for experimental research, thereby fostering creativity and innovation.”

The QFL’s mode of operation also facilitates access to people from outside UdeS, as the platform has put in place a structure that allows them to be welcomed in a responsible and defined manner according to the university’s framework. “For example, this platform allows quantum startups like SBQuantum and Nord Quantique to have access to very expensive equipment and thus invest in scientific development rather than acquiring this equipment themselves. By having a platform like QFL, we allow these companies to use equipment with a rate per hour or per week, which is much more reasonable for a startup. They also have access to all the expertise of the technicians and scientists who are there to help them. For our community, it’s a bit the same thing: when a student goes to the QFL, he meets technicians, professionals and other students he wouldn’t have met in his lab. It creates a network, it opens everyone’s horizons and it allows for the pooling of expertise.” – Karl Thibault, QFL coordinator

An innovative platform

Inspired by the 3IT model, the Institut quantique at the Universityé de Sherbrooke is one of the first in the quantum science field to have a place like the QFL in North America.

Consisting of six closed rooms as well as a large common room, the QFL allows its users to work on their experiments, located in the rooms, with the help of computers in the common room in the center of the laboratory. It includes, among other things, characterization equipment (physical property measurement systems and sub-peak stations), dilution refrigerators and an optical table.

By investing in such infrastructure, the Institut quantique has chosen to put its research facilities to good use in an efficient and sustainable manner, in addition to fostering collaboration and interaction among its members.

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