Ben Sparkes

Ben Sparkes

School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

I am a quantum technology researcher working within the Precision Measurement Group in the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (School of Physics Sciences). I obtained my PhD in Physics from the Australian National University in 2013, where I developed techniques to store and manipulate optical quantum information. In 2013 I moved to the University of Melbourne to work on the development of a cold atom electron/ion source, our goal being to create ultra-short ultra-bright bunches of electrons for single-shot diffraction imaging of biological samples, as well as incredibly focused ion beams for sub-nanometer resolution fabrication. I was awarded a McKenzie Fellowship from the University of Melbourne from 2014-2016, which allowed me to investigate novel methods to improve the source performance. In 2017 I joined the University of Adelaide as an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow, working towards realising a fibre-based optical quantum information network for absolutely secure communications and next-generation computing.

For more information on the research being carried out by the Precision Measurement Group, please see its website. In July 2019 I presented the University of Adelaide Research Tuesday seminar on the important role quantum mechanics is playing in our lives today, and its promise for the world of tomorrow, which can be viewed here. I am also involved in outreach through The Amazing University of Adelaide Laser Radio program. For this work I was awarded the 2018 SA Tall Poppy of the Year award at the SA Science Excellence Awards.

Video courtesy of the Department for Industry and Skills, Government of South Australia.

Currently Held Grants and Fellowships:

  • DST-EQUS Grant (2019-2020)
    • Title: Frequency Conversion via Four-Wave Mixing for Long-Distance Quantum Communications
    • Chief Investigators: T. J. Weinhold, B. M. Sparkes
    • Funding: $100,000
    • Summary: Our aim is to demonstrate the feasibility of performing frequency conversion of light pulses from 795nm to 1530nm - a critical step for achieving long-distance quantum communications using efficient Rubidium-based quantum memories. We will achieve this by using four-wave mixing with warm Rubidium atoms stored in a hollow-core photonic crystal fibre.
    • Australia-Germany Joint Research Co-Operation Scheme (2019-2020)
      • Title: Quantum Simulations with Stationary Light in Hollow Fibres
      • Chief Investigators: B. M. Sparkes, A. N. Luiten, C. Perrella, P. S. Light, J. P. Hedger, P. Windpassinger
      • Funding: $22,500
      • Summary: By engineering “crystals of light” through enhanced atom-light interactions within the hollow core of special optical fibres, this Project will realise a new, improved form of quantum simulator that will be flexible, scalable and easy to read. This is important as a quantum simulator will allow us to study crucial quantum systems that cannot be studied via conventional physics.
    • Next Generation Technology Fund (2019-2020)
      • Title: Quantum Radar for Stealth Detection
      • Chief Investigators: D. Ottaway, B. M. Sparkes, L. Swierkowski, B. Smith, G. Nash
      • Funding: $243,000
      • Summary: Quantum radar is a complex topic that encompasses many areas of physics and engineering. Research into quantum radar is evolving rapidly. This Project will combine expertise on classical radar and lidar systems, atmospheric physics, quantum optical information transmission and storage, as well as the engineering of novel light sources and detectors to provide an up-to-date expert assessment of feasibility and predicted benefit of quantum radar.

        Previously Held Grants and Fellowships:

        • ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award DE170100752 (2017-2019)
          • Title: Fully-Integrated Fibre-Based Platform for a Quantum Information Network
          • Chief Investigator: B. M. Sparkes 
          • Funding: $360,000
          • Summary: This Project will implement novel quantum information storage protocols in the hollow-core fibre systems available at the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.
        • Fulbright Future Scholarship (2019-2020)
          • Title: Changing Colours in Optical Fibres: The Key to Long-Distance Quantum-Secured Communications
          • Chief Investigators: B. M. Sparkes
          • Funding: $13,000
          • Summary: Information encoded onto single particles of light is the key to future global cybersecurity. This Fulbright Fellowship will combine unique Australian expertise in atom-light interactions with world-leading experience in mixing multi-coloured light fields at Columbia University to enable the development of next-generation secure communications by dramatically increasing the distance of quantum-secured fibre information networks. More information available here.
        • ARC Linkage Project LP150101188 (2015-2018)
          • Title: Optical Technology for Quantum Science
          • Chief Investigators: R. E. Scholten, R. Starr, N. P. Robins, M. Biercuk, E. Huntington, B. M. Sparkes
          • Funding: $350,000
          • Summary: The Project is developing precision instrumentation both to enhance scientific research and to strengthen ties with industry through commercialisation.
        • University of Melbourne McKenzie Fellowship (2014-2017)
          • Title: High Resolution, Ultra-fast Imaging of Biological Crystals with a Cold Atom Electron/Ion Source
          • Chief Investigator: B. M. Sparkes
          • Funding: $320,000
          • Summary: This fellowship scheme is to attract outstanding recent doctoral graduates to the University of Melbourne, and provided me with salary and $25k for the purchase of equipment over three years.
        • Defence Science and Technology Group CERA Grant (2017-2018)
          • Title: High-Performance Optical Clock for Satellite and UAV Applications
          • Chief Investigator: C. Perrella; Associate Investigators: P. Light, F. Baynes, B. M. Sparkes, A. Luiten
          • Funding: $97,711
          • Summary: This Project, in the inaugural DST CERA round, is aiming to develop a high-performance and compact optical clock for GPS applications.

        My teaching at the University of Adelaide includes:

        • Photonics IV (Lecturer, 2017-2020)
        • Optics and Photonics III (Lecturer, 2017-2018)
        • Principles & Practice of Research II (Mentor, 2018)
        • Principles & Practice of Research III (Mentor, 2018)


        • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

          Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
          2021 Principal Supervisor Distant clock synchronisation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Sabrina Slimani
          2020 Co-Supervisor NGTF quantum technology stream quest to build a portable atomic clock Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Benjamin Robert White
        • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

          Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
          2018 - 2024 Principal Supervisor Applying Fibre Bragg Grating Fabry-Perot Resonators for Filtering and Sensing Applications Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Jonathan Peter Hedger
        • Committee Memberships

          Date Role Committee Institution Country
          2019 - ongoing Secretary Quantum Information Concepts and Coherence Topical Group Australian Institute of Physics Australia
          2018 - ongoing Member IPAS Scientific Leadership Committee Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing Australia
          2018 - ongoing Co-Chair IPAS Science Network University of Adelaide Australia
          2017 - 2017 Member IPAS Science Network University of Adelaide Australia
        • Memberships

          Date Role Membership Country
          2014 - ongoing Member Australian Institute of Physics Australia
          2014 - ongoing Member American Physical Society United States
          2009 - ongoing Member Optical Society of America United States
          2009 - ongoing Member Australian Optical Society Australia

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