At first glance, I thought it was a horrible mistake — an architectural flaw of colossal proportions.
It appeared to be a long, deep crack in the concrete foundation of the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, the future headquarters of the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.
Construction of the new facility, located smack-dab in the middle of the University of Waterloo campus, is nearing completion, and last week I was on a steel-toed-boots-and-hard-hat tour of the site with guests from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
I’m no construction expert, but a long fissure in the foundation — barely wider than my thumb, but deeper than I could discern — seemed like an egregious boo-boo in a building specifically designed for highly sensitive quantum experiments.
Thankfully, several construction experts were on hand, along with a few quantum scientists, who explained that the split foundation is a deliberate, and rather ingenious, construction feature.
It turns out the building has two separate foundations — one for the main part of the facility, and another upon which sit the extra-sensitive scientific areas, such as the cutting-edge cleanroom/fabrication facility.
Because quantum experiments are so delicate to perturbation — remember, just having a peek at a quantum system will alter it — they must be extremely well isolated from their surroundings. One clever way to achieve this: constructing laboratories upon separate foundations from the surrounding structure. Even if the overall facility shifts a micron in any direction (that’s a fraction of the width of a human hair), the experiments housed atop the secondary foundation won’t budge.
Which is all a long way of saying the new building is going to be really, really cool. Check it out: