2023 Quantum Open House at Purdue Physics and Astronomy

Quantum fun is for everyone

Purdue Physics and Astronomy Outreach hosts second annual Quantum Open House

Once a year, the Purdue Physics building opens its doors and invites the public to learn about quantum and how it might affect everyday life. On Saturday, September 23, over 100 members from Purdue and the local community participated in a three-hour quantum labyrinth at the second annual Quantum Open House. For a photo gallery of the event, scroll to the bottom of this page.

Multiple research labs, many student volunteers (nearly 40 grad students and over 20 undergrads), and ten faculty from Physics, Electrical Computer Engineering, and Chemistry organized various activities to introduce quantum science to the public while showcasing quantum research happening right now at Purdue. The event included talks, research lab tours, as well as hands-on demo activities. As a delicious reward for learning about quantum science, attendees were treated to ice cream made on site with liquid nitrogen by student volunteers at the end of the event.

“Quantum science has been a fertile ground for discovery over the past century,” says Dr. Gabor Csathy, professor and head of Purdue Physics and Astronomy. “Today there are many opportunities with quantum science and Purdue is fortunate to have hired outstanding talent in this growing field of study. The College of Science and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue have invested significant resources in expanding our presence in quantum sciences. I applaud the faculty and staff for organizing the Quantum Open House in order to share our activities and our sense of excitement with the community at large. This will lead to an increased appreciation for our work here at Purdue and will inspire local youth to perhaps one day embark on a career in the sciences.”

"The Quantum Open House provided clear beginner-level explanations for the many quantum-related projects and activities happening at Purdue. This was really helpful for someone like me who had limited knowledge of the field and served as a really great introduction." - attendee Shannon Cheng, freshman majoring in computer science

“We want to demystify quantum, by inviting everyone regardless of their background to join us on this afternoon of exploration – to learn, through seeing and playing in person, how quantum physics is behind much of modern technologies we use daily; and to explore the exciting new opportunities in the field of quantum information science and technology,” says Alex Ruichao Ma, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, one of the faculty event organizers.

This year’s open house also featured two Purdue student clubs: the Quantum Games Club and the Quantum Student Organization. Both clubs are open to all Purdue students because quantum science is for everyone.

Hiram Diaz and Anderson Xu of the Quantum Games Club, working with Prof. Valentine Walther from Chemistry department, developed quantum games for the event. These games were so popular that many attendees gravitated back to the game room after finishing their lab and demo tours.

The Quantum Student Organization ran the superconducting levitation demonstration. “Our organization strives to reach out to all Purdue students to make the word ‘quantum’ much more approachable, tangible, and intuitive, regardless of their major or previous experience with quantum.” Says Santiago Lopez, president of the Quantum Student Organization and a junior studying math and physics at Purdue. “The Quantum Open House was a great opportunity for us to help demystify quantum and show everyone quantum physics in a fun and engaging way.”

In addition to these clubs, student volunteers from Society of Physics Students at Purdue and the Purdue Astronomy Club helped check people in, make ice cream, and led guests from lab to lab throughout the event. The tours spanned the entire Physics building creating quite a labyrinth of organized quantum chaos.

“It was rewarding to be able to give something back to the department after studying here for three years. Being able to see the guests enjoying Physics is definitely the coolest experience that I can both relate to and cherish.” - student volunteer Zheng Yuan
“The Quantum Open House was a great opportunity to share my love of physics with people outside of the department and to teach people about the exciting work being done in a field that is very dear to me.” - student volunteer Mason Giacchetti
Quantum physics is an immensely interesting concept to me, and this event was a nice way to learn a lot about it. I loved how interactive everything was." - Marilynn, age 15, Purdue Polytechnic High School
“As scientists, it is our responsibility to clearly communicate science and our research,” says Ethan Pinarski, a senior year physics major that helped organize the tour schedule and undergraduate volunteers. “The Quantum Open House went above and beyond to do just that.”

For those that may have missed out on this year's Quantum Open House, keep a lookout for future events. Watch for information on this page from Physics and Astronomy Outreach:

This year’s Quantum Open House received financial support from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Purdue Quantum Science and Engineering Institute, and Physics and Astronomy Outreach.

“Events like our Quantum Open House have a high marquee value for Physics and Astronomy Outreach, enabling our faculty to showcase their research, resources and expertise and to engage broad cross sections of the local and extended communities,” says Dr. David Sederberg, Purdue Physics and Astronomy Outreach Coordinator.

The list of research lab tours offered this year include:

  • Quantum Sensing Lab by Prof. Toncang Li. Guests learn how imperfections in ultrathin materials can be used as extremely precise sensors of ions and molecules in liquids for bio applications.
  • Quantum Entanglement by Prof. Jukka Vayrynen. Guests were invited to explore the concepts of randomness and quantum entanglement with electronic "quantum coins.”
  • Quantum with Ultracold Atoms by Prof. Chen-Lung Hung. Guests learned how the team tames single atoms with lasers, to temperatures a billionth of a degree above absolute zero to understand fundamental physics and applications in quantum science.
  • Quantum Computers by Prof. Alex Ruichao Ma. Guests learned about the future of computing and were able to see a quantum processing unit created at Purdue University. They learned how the lab operates a quantum computer at super-cold temperatures.
  • Exploring the Quantum World through Spectroscopy by Prof. Hadiseh Alaeian. The team unveiled the intricate interplay between atoms and light, showcasing how this interaction serves as an exclusive cipher for delving into the secrets of atomic understanding.
  • Making Quantum Molecular Movies with Ultrafast Lasers by Prof. Niranjan Shivaram. Guests learned how the team makes movies of electrons in molecules using ultrafast lasers, creating plasma in air by giving electrons the ability to "tunnel through walls" and escape from molecules.
  • How to take pictures with electrons By Prof. Leonid Rokhinson. Guests were able to see firsthand how the team takes advantage of wave-particle duality to image surfaces across scales of size.

Between lab visits, the attendees were able to get involved with hands-on demonstrations and activities. They were able to roll up their sleeves and get one-on-one time with quantum experiments.

These hands-on demos included:

  • Superconducting levitation: Guests explored the gravity-defying quantum levitation and quantum locking in this hands-on activity. This activity was run by members of the Quantum Student Organization.
  • Quantum Games: Play by the rules of quantum mechanics! The principles of quantum mechanics revealed themselves only at small scales and low temperatures. Guests were able to try their hands at computer games that allow them to delve into a world governed by quantum mechanics. This activity was run by members of the Quantum Games Club.
  • Symmetry and Physics - Build an Icosahedron! The icosahedron plays an important role in material science due to its peculiar symmetry. Guests were able to build their own in this demonstration ran by Prof. Laimei Nie’s group.
  • Quantum Eraser Demo: Guests experienced a double slit experiment and follow-up 'eraser' experiment using a laser pointer and a few thin film polarizers in this demo ran by the group of Prof. Grace Liang.

Below are more images from the Quantum Open House

Photos on this web page were taken by Jonathan Sullivan-Wood, Alin Mesaros, Cheryl Pierce, David Sederberg, and Alex Ruichoa Ma.