Professor Markus Gräfe Gives Second CNTR Guest Lecture

Man holds up two red and green balls
A brief ride through the field of quantum technologies for peace and conflict researchers

For the second lecture in the CNTR guest lecture series, Prof. Dr. Markus Gräfe visited PRIF on 17 October 2023. Professor Gräfe is a professor in the field of Experimental Solid State Quantum Optics at the Institute of Applied Physics at TU Darmstadt, where he uses quantum optics to research new tools for cancer diagnostics in the “QUANCER” project. In his CNTR guest lecture, he explained and discussed the possible role of quantum technology for peace and conflict research.

After an introduction to the most important terminology and theories such as superposition, Heisenberg uncertainty, entanglement, and the observer effect, Professor Gräfe went into more detail about the possible uses of quantum technology, which are almost all dual-use. He described use cases from the four pillars of quantum technology, namely quantum computing, quantum sensing and metrology, quantum communication and quantum imaging. In dialogue with the participating researchers, the relevance of these technologies for the topics of peace and conflict research in the coming years was discussed.

While quantum computers, on the one hand, cannot compute anything that a classical computer cannot do, on the other hand, the advantage of quantum computers is that they can perform calculations much faster and thus more efficiently. They could thus potentially be used to simulate geopolitical scenarios, to develop new materials or for logistical optimization in both the civilian and military domains. Possessing a quantum computer would thus be a strategic advantage for states. In the field of quantum sensing and metrology, the use of optical clocks as an advancement of atomic clocks could be used as a much more accurate GPS. Measurement of gravitational waves could be used to detect submarines or geological resources. In the area of human-machine interaction, prosthetic limbs could be controlled in the civilian realm, but robots or weapons could be controlled in the military realm. Quantum communications could have far-reaching implications for cryptography. For example, classical encryption methods will become dramatically easier to decrypt with the help of quantum computers. At the same time, new encryption methods will be made possible. In the field of quantum imaging, improved microscopy could be used for medical diagnostics as well as detecting pathogens and toxins. This could potentially improve detection of biological and chemical warfare agents.

After the lecture, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions. In the discussion with the participating researchers, it quickly became clear that the developments in quantum technology are expected to have a major impact on the topics and problems of peace and conflict research in the coming years.

CNTR would like to thank Professor Gräfe for his informative and stimulating guest lecture.

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