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Very rubin observatory, Credit: Rubin Obs/NSF/AURA

Perimeter Institute launches Clay Riddell Centre for quantum matter

account_circle By Mike Brown
A new research hub at Perimeter seeks to accelerate discovery in one of the fastest-growing fields in physics, thanks to a $10 million investment from the Riddell Family Charitable Foundation.

Perimeter Institute is launching the Clay Riddell Centre for Quantum Matter, a new research hub where scientists will seek to harness the intrinsic properties of quantum mechanics to understand and uncover completely new states of matter.

The Centre represents a 10-year, $25 million investment in quantum matter research, made possible by a $10 million founding donation from the Riddell Family Charitable Foundation.


Quantum matter is currently one of the most promising and most productive areas in fundamental physics research. The field is not only accelerating significantly, but also converging toward a rich nexus, ranging from condensed matter physics and quantum information to quantum gravity and string theory,” says Robert Myers, Perimeter’s Director. “Thanks to the Riddell family, the Centre will build on Perimeter’s core strengths in these areas. The Institute’s highly interdisciplinary nature makes it the ideal environment to advance our knowledge of quantum matter.”

New insights into the exotic quantum phenomena studied at the Centre will ultimately usher in a new world of materials science. By trying to understand how matter works at the most fundamental level, quantum matter scientists are laying the foundations for the technologies of the future.

“The visionary investment by the Riddell family will catalyze discoveries that will be critical to the second quantum revolution. Clay honoured us with his confidence in our mission, and his confidence in what Perimeter has the potential to do,” says Mike Lazaridis, Perimeter’s founder and board chair. “We are profoundly grateful to the Riddell Family Charitable Foundation for this generous investment.”

“My father truly loved science. He always wanted to understand how things worked and how he could use that understanding to better things in the world,” says Jim Riddell, the son of the new Centre’s namesake. “He obviously didn’t expect to see the results of this investment in his lifetime, but he was excited about its potential impact for Canada and the world.”

Clay Riddell was an explorer, entrepreneur, and community builder, who received the Order of Canada in 2008 for his leadership and philanthropy. Prior to his passing in September 2018, he made the decision to partner with Perimeter to make the Centre for Quantum Matter a reality. He viewed it as a high-impact investment for humanity and the family is delighted to honour him with it, says Sue Riddell Rose, one of his three daughters and president of the Riddell Family Charitable Foundation.

“Clay was incredibly excited to discover that we have a true gem like the Perimeter Institute in Canada,” she adds. “He was attracted to just how purposeful Perimeter is about developing a pipeline of talent, and to the humility of the researchers as they seek answers to the universe’s biggest questions. He loved what can happen when you bring smart people together.”

The Centre will ultimately connect more than two dozen researchers and students, including four recently recruited members of the Institute’s faculty:

  • Yin-Chen He, an expert in numerical simulations of quantum matter, quantum spin liquids, and quantum dynamics
  • Timothy Hsieh, who studies quantum materials, topological phases of matter, and applications of synthetic quantum systems for quantum simulation
  • Chong Wang, whose research covers quantum spin liquids, topological insulators, quantum Hall effects, quantum phase transitions, and their connections to modern aspects of quantum field theory
  • Beni Yoshida, who has done groundbreaking work in quantum information, quantum phases of matter, and holographic quantum gravity

“What drew me to Perimeter was the emphasis on very ambitious, usually long-term questions, as well as the open-mindedness that pervades the Institute,” said Hsieh.

In addition to enhancing Perimeter’s expertise in quantum matter through recruitment, the Centre will host cutting-edge international conferences, bring leading scientists to Perimeter for collaboration, and develop computational resources to enable state-of-the-art numerical simulations.

“Quantum matter is an area that is primed to produce breakthroughs in the next decade,” says Myers. “It has the potential to revolutionize everything from transportation to medical diagnostics to smart energy grids.”

Potential applications could include quantum computers that vastly outperform today’s best supercomputers, room-temperature superconductors that enable more efficient power transmission, quantum cryptography systems that are crucial to secure data storage and communications, and quantum sensors that can probe the subatomic world with unprecedented precision. Scientists at the Centre will contribute to the crucial theoretical work that lays the foundation for such advances.

The Clay Riddell Centre for Quantum Matter was officially launched in a virtual presentation in October 2020 that included many congratulatory notes from leading scientists and dignitaries.

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, shared his appreciation: “Our government is proud to support quantum research, one of the most exciting areas of innovation today, and one of Canada’s research strengths. With the launch of the Clay Riddell Centre for Quantum Matter at Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada will be able to attract even more talent, expertise, and leadership in this transformational area of discovery.”

The Honourable Ross Romano, Ontario Minister for Colleges and Universities, also extended his congratulations: “The Perimeter Institute is a world leader in theoretical physics, and a powerful example of the public and private sectors working together to support important research. The Ontario government is delighted that the Riddell Family Charitable Foundation has shown tremendous generosity to support such an important organization. Advancing the quantum sciences is crucial to our short- and long-term competitiveness, and the Clay Riddell Centre for Quantum Matter at Perimeter Institute will be a vital component in that future.”

The Clay Riddell Centre for Quantum Matter becomes the second research hub of its kind at Perimeter, joining the Centre for the Universe that was launched in 2017 to tackle the toughest questions facing cosmology. These focused research clusters are housed within Perimeter’s existing award-winning facility. They create international research hubs, bringing experts together to collaborate on questions that are ripe for major discoveries.


Additional congratulatory remarks

“It’s not only a good day for Perimeter, but also for physics and for Canada. Quantum matter is an exciting field. We don’t know precisely what changes it will bring to our world. But we know the new ideas and technologies it produces will help shape our collective future. As the Centre brings together brilliant minds from around the world to tackle interesting problems, I’ll be watching with excitement. This kind of collaboration is precisely what the world needs more of these days.”

Donna Strickland, 2018 Nobel laureate and professor at the University of Waterloo

“Foundational research probes nature at its most fundamental, and deepens our understanding in beautiful ways. It is at the core of why Perimeter was founded. On behalf of the Scientific Advisory Committee, it is my pleasure to thank the Riddell Family and the Riddell Family Charitable Foundation for helping advance discovery in quantum matter, a field overflowing with exciting possibilities.”

Gabriela González, former spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Chair of the Perimeter Institute Scientific Advisory Committee

About PI

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 

For more information, contact:
Mike Brown
Manager, Communications & Media
519-569-7600 x5131