Module code: PHYM073

Module Overview

This module comprises two independent halves, on making qubit, and quantum communications.

  • Quantum technologies, including quantum computing, rely on the quantum mechanical principles of superposition and entanglement. Furthermore, this superposition and entanglement needs to be controlled in useful ways. In this module you will learn about what physical systems allow quantum technology production, and their limitations. Quantum computers are only one type of device that uses these principles, and several other technologies are being created that are also enhanced by use of superpositions. Others include atomic clocks and Magnetic Resonance Imaging, MRI. We will also learn about the errors that inevitably build up in quantum computers when quantum superpositions are disturbed, and the strategies that might be built in to correct them.

  • Quantum communications. This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the principles, protocols, and applications of quantum communications. Students will explore the fundamental concepts of quantum information transmission, quantum cryptography, and quantum communication protocols. They will also examine the challenges, advancements, and real-world applications of quantum communications including both theory and practical aspects.

Module provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

FLORESCU Marian (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 2

Independent Learning Hours: 73

Lecture Hours: 15

Seminar Hours: 5

Tutorial Hours: 10

Guided Learning: 30

Captured Content: 15

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content for the How to Make a Qubit part:

  • Qubit platforms. The DiVicenzo criteria specify the ingredients needed to build a quantum computer. We will perform a comparative study the characteristics of a variety of quantum technology platforms that provide the requisites (likely to include, but not limited to: Harmonic oscillators; Ion Traps; Photons; NMR; diamond NV; semiconductor spins).

  • Error correction. Not only do we need strategies to reduce errors in quantum computers for qubits with low fidelity, strategies for correction are essential, and this has important implications for the number of qubits required in a practical computer.

  • Other quantum technologies. We will also investigate the possibilities for other applications of quantum technology such as: Atomic Clocks; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Sensors) [NB some specific hardware systems and applications are not included here because they will be explored in detail in other modules].

  • Latest research. The list of platforms covered, the details of their comparison, and the applications in quantum technology will be kept up-to-date with the latest research in the field.

Indicative content for the Quantum Communications part:

  • Classical cryptography and introduction to quantum communications. We first need to discuss classical encryption strategies, like RSA (which is the standard used in most secure communications), and how these strategies might be attacked. The idea of a one-time-pad as an encryption key makes communication totally secure, but the keys must first be generated totally randomly (which can be performed with quantum dice), and then transmitted totally securely. The BB84 protocol for quantum key distirbution is the simplest to explain and makes a neat introduction to quantum cryptography.

  • Entanglement as a resource for communications. The quantum nature of light gives an advantage for the transmission of information, which allows much more information to be transmitted than 1 bit per photon sent (superdense coding). This advantage relies on having prepared a resource called an entangled pair (of photons or spins etc), where one of the pair is held by each of the two people wanting to communicate (who are usually referred to as Alice and Bob). Entangled resource can also be used to teleport quantum information from Alice to Bob in an extremely efficient way: Bob can get an exact copy of Alice's qubit if she only tells him two classical bits (an otherwise impossible feat since Alice's qubit encodes two arbitrary complex numbers)!

  • Entanglement and quantum cryptography. For long distance quantum key distribution, repeater stages are needed, just like the amplifier stages in classical optical fibre networks. Strategies for secure quantum communication via repeaters rely on entangled photon pairs, and here we will investigate modern cryptography systems, including via fibres and satellites.

  • Hardware. Although the module is primarily about the algorithms for quantum communications, hardware is always the limiting factor in quantum technology, so we will investigate the state of development and future prospects.  

  • Latest research. The latest research will be used to inform content in both the communications protocols and hardware.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Project (Group/Individual/Dissertation) Quantum Communication Project (Group report) 35
Project (Group/Individual/Dissertation) Quantum Communication Project (Individual presentation) 15
Examination End of semester examination (1.5 hour) on Qubit material 50

Alternative Assessment

In situations where the Quantum Communication Project (Group part) requires an alternative or reassessment it will be replaced with an individual literature review.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

  • adaptability, collaboration skills resulting in team contributions to group outcomes

  • individual knowledge and problem-solving abilities

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • The Quantum Communication Project assessment which takes the form of a team activity for the production of the combination of a literature review, computation/modelling assessment of the likely reliability of communication systems built with the technology reviewed, presentation and peer assessment. There will be an element of choice over the combination of activities/roles undertaken (e.g. in order to take account of your neurodiversity needs). Within this Project there are Group and Individual components.

    • group-authored technical report (7 pages max) on quantum communication applications and implementation

    • individual oral presentation (10 mins max)

  • An end-of-semester examination on the Qubits material

Formative assessment

  • Formative feedback and coaching will be provided that is timely and constructive throughout the project duration to guide Quantum Communication project groups in their implementation.

  • A team project Proposal and Plan, will be submitted early in the Quantum Communications project for formative assessment, outlining the objectives for each individual (i.e. with different tasks for each member of the team), a scope, methodology, and timeline. [Assessed on the clarity, feasibility, and appropriateness of the methodology, techniques and tools.] 

  • Formative assessment will be provided through SurreyLearn quizzes to assess recall of key points and basic problem-solving skills.

  • Formatively assessed problem sheets.

Feedback: Verbal immediate feedback will be given in tutorials through in-class questions and discussions in tutorials and one-to-one advice in open office hours

Module aims

  • The module aims to give an understanding of the variety of modern quantum computer hardware, with comparative analysis of the advantages, disadvantages, and likely applications of each
  • Applications of quantum technology other than computers will also be explored, such as quantum sensing
  • From a hardware perspective, it is very important to understand how imperfections in quantum technology affect the ability to deliver large scale computers, and this module will cover hardware error correction strategies
  • Explore the practical challenges and advancements in quantum channel modeling, noise analysis, and error/eavesdropper detection
  • Critically evaluate and discuss the ethical and societal implications of quantum communications and quantum technology more widely

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of different quantum hardware systems CK
002 Calculate the strength and sequence of perturbation pulses needed to produce specific operations with a variety of quantum technology platforms CK
003 Analyse and present specific advances made in recent scientific literature results relative to the state-of-the-art in the relevant topic CK
004 Evaluate the security aspects of a particular quantum communications system and identify potential vulnerabilities CK
005 Utilise experimental or simulation tools to demonstrate quantum communication protocols CP
006 Collaborate effectively in team projects involving the design and implementation of quantum communication systems CKPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Expose students to the latest research in quantum technology hardware, including not only quantum computer hardware but also other technologies like quantum clocks, sensors etc

  • Encourage critical thinking about hardware research results, in particular comparative assessment of benefits and barriers for any given technology

  • Give understanding of the way that quantum computer gates are translated into signals to hardware in the various implementations

  • Equip students with knowledge of strategies to deal with errors, in the present era of Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum computing

  • Enable students to gain knowledge of the topic of quantum communications in an interactive way, encouraging them to solve problems rather than learn by rote.

  • Enhance students' group collaboration and presentation skills.

  • Give students experience of working in a trusted environment where they can develop their own strategies for learning and self-improvement.

Thus, the learning and teaching methods include

  • Interactive lectures

  • tutorials to discuss problem sets, and class seminars to discussion about limitations and challenges in quantum technology

  • Workshops for group activities

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHYM073

Other information

The School of Mathematics and Physics is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

Digital Capabilities: In this module we study the hardware components of a revolution in digital capabilities: the quantum computer.

Global and Cultural Capabilities: Quantum computing and communications raises ethical questions to which the answers must come from a diverse set of cultures. For example, if quantum computing can be used for drug discovery, then bad actors could use it for bio-chemical weapons discovery. Quantum communications could allow information security for the wealthy but not ordinary citizens. We will encourage students to critically analyse how quantum computing and communications can impact individual rights, privacy, fairness, and accountability from a global perspective. Understanding and appreciating diverse ethical viewpoints can enhance students' cultural sensitivity and help them navigate the complex and very new ethical landscape produced by quantum computing in a global context.

Resourcefulness and Resilience: By participating in group activities, students have the opportunity to demonstrate resourcefulness and resilience through problem-solving, time management, collaboration, conflict resolution, adaptability, seeking feedback, and reflective practices. These skills are invaluable in navigating challenges, both within group settings and in real-world situations, fostering their personal growth and success.

Employability: The market for graduates in quantum computing is expected to rise significantly in the future as the technology becomes more established, and background knowledge of the variety of platforms with their various advantages and disadvantages will be very beneficial. The group project will enhance students' employability by providing them with practical experience in collaboration, communication, problem-solving, adaptability, accountability to others, time management, leadership, professionalism, and networking. These skills are transferable to various professional settings and contribute to their readiness for the workforce.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics MPhys 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Physics with Astronomy MPhys 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Physics MPhys 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Physics with Quantum Computing MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Physics MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics MPhys 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics MMath 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.