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PhD graduate leads efforts to create first quantum microscope

- Wits University

Chané Moodley will be heading a research team into finding the best ways of developing and commercialising a quantum microscope.

Chane Moodley

A graduate of the Wits Structured Light Laboratory in the School of Physics is leading the way into creating and commercialising South Africa’s first quantum microscope.

Chané Moodley, a former PhD student of Professor Andrew Forbes in the Structured Light Laboratory, will be heading the QLab research team at Raphta, into finding the best ways of developing and commercialising a quantum microscope.

Raphta is a Midrand-based firm that uses Artificial Intelligence applications to prevent theft and vandalism of critical infrastructure – such as water, solar, and telecoms infrastructure – in South Africa. It is also, through its subsidiary, QLab, the commercialisation partner of the Structured Light Laboratory’s quantum tech.

“Diagnostic tools using traditional microscopes fall short in that the material being examined are often sensitive to light, and can be damaged by the light emitted through traditional microscopes,” says Moodley. “The advantage of a quantum microscope is that it uses a fraction of the light compared to a traditional microscope, and can work in a very limited light environment.”

A quantum microscope will leverage the use of the entanglement of photons to be able to see images at very low light levels. Through entanglement, two particles, such as photons remain connected even when separated by vast distances. In other words, the characteristics of one of the entangled particles can be measured remotely, by measuring its entangled counterpart.

Raphta’s QLab was launched in September. “Raphta's QLab offering can be thought of as Google X, it is the research and innovation arm of Raphta focusing on quantum imaging, AI and next generation technologies,” says Moodley.

“Our focus is to be an African pioneer in the research and development of AI, quantum imaging and next generation technologies. Our own technology solution is called Shuri AI and it is an autonomous software platform leveraging AI, computer vision and sensor fusion to reduce and ultimately prevent incidents of theft and vandalism to critical infrastructure.” 

Moodley, who recently graduated with her PhD in physics, is a physicist and physiologist with research experience in various fields at multiple international institutions. The focus of her PhD was on applying AI to quantum imaging for optimisation and enhancement purposes, which is leading to the research and development of the new quantum microscope.

“We are really in the foundational research stages of the quantum microscope project, with the Structured Light Lab and Professor Andrew Forbes as our long-time partner and collaborator in the fundamental research going into quantum imaging. We hope to demonstrate a viable product in approximately five years,” says Moodley.

Raptha CEO, Tshidiso Radinne says Raphta believes that AI has a major role to play in the country and wider continent.

“As part of a growing local AI community we want to ensure Africa does not miss this global race and contributes meaningfully to the advancement of the technology. Our applications of the technology in critical infrastructure, healthcare, smart cities and AI bias will have a net positive impact on South Africa and its citizens."