Design and Construction of Quantum Computational Laboratories

Brian Sanders, Bulley & Andrews, LLC
Michael Semenzin, MRSA Architects & Planners

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The Awschalom Group at the University of Chicago researches activities in optical and magnetic interactions in semiconductor quantum structures, spin dynamics and coherence in condensed matter systems ("spintronics"), macroscopic quantum phenomena in nanometer-scale magnets, and implementations of quantum information and sensing in the solid state. The three laboratories presented are laser-based laboratories on Lower Level 2 of the William Eckhart Research Center (ERC) at The University of Chicago. The building was designed with this area designated for optical research. It is structurally and EMI quiet, a perfect place for laser work. The first laboratory utilized an overhead utility mezzanine to eliminate all equipment vibration and heat source that could affect the lasers. Air flow was directed down around the perimeter of the room and up through the open grate of the mezzanine at a rate low enough to be negligible at the table-top.

The second and third laboratories use a custom-designed table enclosure to eliminate all potentially disruptive air movement from affecting the lasers and to provide HEPA filtration. All three laboratories have a raised floor with laser table legs extending to the slab below. Each unit contains 2 rooms with 2-4 laser tables, an isolated pump closet, a student area and a prep lab. The most significant challenge began while nearing completion for a lab that was purchasing a 6-Tesla cryo-magnet as part of the research. This made safety a more substantial concern, for both the researchers in the room, as well as for the surrounding laboratories on the floor and one floor above.

Sustainability is often a challenge in such specific research driven spaces, but sustainability comes from flexibility. Because of the raised floor and demountable partitions used on the project, they can reconfigure each laboratory to almost any layout or, take the space back to its shell condition for the next great research idea.

Learning Objectives

  • Provide 'stillness' (temperature, humidity, air flow, vibration, magntetic fields) at laser tables;
  • Understand necessity of temperature and humidity control;
  • Examine safety of students as it relates to magnetic shielding; and
  • Convert from imaging suite to laser tables and flexibility to convert back to imaging in the future.


Brian Sanders, a Bulley & Andrews (B&A) senior project manager, is recognized for his strong coordination and diligent problem-solving skills. Brian's career spans over three decades. His expertise has been applied to some of the firm's most complex projects for The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Argonne National Laboratory. Responsible for over 32 laboratory and cleanroom projects during his career, Brian has not only found but mastered his niche in the building industry.

Michael Semenzin is co-owner of MRSA Architects, a 40-year-old architecture and design firm. For the last 15 years, Michael has led MRSA's biotech group. In that time Michael and MRSA have completed a wide range of projects at both Illinois Tech and The University of Chicago, as well as work for private research and testing companies, and private developers. An avid reader, Michael is as likely to be reading a history of physics or Chaos Theory as anything, but he's always reading something.


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