An Inside Look at Professor Pankaj Jha’s New Quantum Technology Lab 

Dr. Aswini Pattanayak
Dr. Aswini Pattanayak working in the quantum technology lab.

Two-dimensional (2D) materials are the thinnest nanomaterials known to exist. Being only about a single or few layers of atoms thick, these delicate sheets have found many applications in electronic devices, quantum optics, and photovoltaic technology.  Pankaj K. Jha, assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science, is leading a quantum technology laboratory with members Aswini Pattanayak, Jagi Rout G’28, Amir Targholizadeh G’28, Theodore Todorov ’26, and Grisha Nikulin ’27 to understand emerging 2D materials and use their findings to develop transformative devices for applications in quantum information science.

Professor Pankaj Jha in his quantum technology lab
Professor Pankaj Jha working on a home-built confocal microscope to investigate the optical properties of 2D materials and heterostructures

Jha is developing single-photon detectors using iron-based superconductors that could work at higher temperatures. Currently, superconducting photodetectors require low temperatures to operate. Pattanayak, a post-doctoral scholar, is leading this project to understand photodetection in iron-chalcogenide-based superconductors and investigating the interaction between these superconductors with other 2D van der Waals (vdWs) materials, exploring unique quantum phenomena at their interfaces. 

“High-temperature single photon detectors will have both scientific and fundamental impact. Any application that requires sensitive photon detectors will benefit from these devices,” Jha says.   

Pattanayak is also mentoring Todorov, an undergraduate student, in light interferometry. Interferometers combine light to create an interference pattern that can be measured and analyzed. “Interferometry is the basis of optics because it allows you to analyze the classical and quantum optical properties of light,” Todorov says. “The resulting interference can allow one to understand properties of the laser such as path length, wavelength, and refractive index of the medium it has passed through.”  

“In this era of quantum exploration, the investigation of superconductors serves as the cornerstone for unlocking unparalleled frontiers in quantum technologies and devices,” says Pattanayak. 

Pankaj Jha and his Research Team
Professor Pankaj Jha, Theodore Todorov, Aswini Pattanayak, Amir Targholizadeh, and Jagi Rout (left to right)

Rout, a graduate student, is exploring heterostructures using nanofabrication techniques. Her research focuses on studying high-temperature superconductivity. In addition to working on single-photon detectors, Rout is developing Josephson junctions, devices made by placing thin, non-superconducting materials between two superconductors, and she’ll be using iron-chalcogenide-based superconductors.  

“The interplay among topology, magnetism, and superconductivity makes our material an intriguing platform to investigate the strange yet promising interactions in the subatomic realm,” says Rout.   

Rout is also mentoring Todorov and Nikulin in the exfoliation of 2D materials. Nikulin’s interest is Superconducting Qubit Architecture and Quantum Algorithms.  “Superconducting-based photon detection also has significant applications towards reducing quantum decoherence in quantum computation systems,” says Nikulin. 

Targholizadeh, a graduate student, is developing flat photonic devices based on metasurfaces capable of functioning at extremely low temperatures. He aims to address and solve some of the outstanding challenges that single photon detectors face, such as polarization sensitivity, and near-normal incidence requirements, among other issues. 

“Metasurfaces are recently introduced as a new paradigm for nanophotonic devices, and in our laboratory, we are working on conceiving, designing, fabricating, and testing these metasurface-based devices,” Targholizadeh says.  

Jagi Rout working on creating heterostructures with 2D materials with a fully motorized transferred setup.

In addition to research, Jha started a quantum information science and engineering seminar (QISE) at Syracuse University with support from an internal FCAR Grant. With speakers from academia, industry, and national labs, seminars are open to all and cover experimental and theoretical topics in QISE and adjacent research.

“The response to the QISE Seminar Series has been outstanding, with 60-70 % student audience participation,” Jha says. “I see a bright future for quantum science at the University.” 

Click here to learn more about the QISE Seminar

Theodore Todorov working with Aswini Pattanayak on building an interferometer to study the quantum properties of light.