New Material May Lead To Advances In Quantum Computing

Oct 04, 2007

Scientists at Florida State University’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and the university’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have introduced a new material that could be to computers of the future what silicon is to the computers of today.

The material -- a compound made from the elements potassium, niobium and oxygen, along with chromium ions -- could provide a technological breakthrough that leads to the development of new quantum computing technologies. Quantum computers would harness the power of atoms and molecules to perform memory and processing tasks on a scale far beyond those of current computers. The research was recently published in Physical Review Letters.

“The field of quantum information technology is in its infancy, and our work is another step forward in this fascinating field,” said Saritha Nellutla, a postdoctoral associate at the magnet lab and lead author of the paper.

Semiconductor technology is close to reaching its performance limit. Over the years, processors have shrunk to their current size, with the components of a computer chip more than 1,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. At those very small scales, quantum effects -- behaviors in matter that occur at the atomic and subatomic levels -- can start playing a role. By exploiting those behaviors, scientists hope to take computing to the next level.

In current computers, the basic unit of information is the “bit,” which can have a value of 0 or 1. In so-called quantum computers, which currently exist only in theory, the basic unit is the “qubit” (short for quantum bit). A qubit can have not only a value of 0 or 1, but also all kinds of combinations of 0 and 1 -- including 0 and 1 at the same time -- meaning quantum computers could perform certain kinds of calculations much more effectively than current ones.

How scientists realize the promise of the theoretical qubit is not clear. Various designs and paths have been proposed, and one very promising idea is to use tiny magnetic fields, called “spins.” Spins are associated with electrons and various atomic nuclei.

Magnet lab scientists used high magnetic fields and microwave radiation to “operate” on the spins in the new material they developed to get an indication of how long the spin could be controlled. Based on their experiments, the material could enable 500 operations in 10 microseconds before losing its ability to retain information, making it a good candidate for a qubit.

Putting this spin to work would usher in a technological revolution, because the spin state of an electron, in addition to its charge, could be used to carry, manipulate and store information.

“This material is very promising,” said Naresh Dalal, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at FSU and one of the paper’s authors. “But additional synthetic and magnetic characterization work is needed before it could be made suitable for use in a device.”

Dalal also serves as an adviser to FSU chemistry graduate student Mekhala Pati, who created the material.

Source: FSU

Explore further: New research predicts when, how materials will act

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How iron feels the heat

Feb 13, 2015

As you heat up a piece of iron, the arrangement of the iron atoms changes several times before melting. This unusual behavior is one reason why steel, in which iron plays a starring role, is so sturdy and ...

Exotic states materialize with supercomputers

Feb 12, 2015

Scientists used supercomputers to find a new class of materials that possess an exotic state of matter known as the quantum spin Hall effect. The researchers published their results in the journal Science in Dec ...

Recommended for you

New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

Feb 27, 2015

University of Utah engineers have discovered a new approach for designing filters capable of separating different frequencies in the terahertz spectrum, the next generation of communications bandwidth that ...

The super-resolution revolution

Feb 27, 2015

Cambridge scientists are part of a resolution revolution. Building powerful instruments that shatter the physical limits of optical microscopy, they are beginning to watch molecular processes as they happen, ...

Precision gas sensor could fit on a chip

Feb 27, 2015

Using their expertise in silicon optics, Cornell engineers have miniaturized a light source in the elusive mid-infrared (mid-IR) spectrum, effectively squeezing the capabilities of a large, tabletop laser onto a 1-millimeter ...

A new X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

Feb 27, 2015

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright ...

New research signals big future for quantum radar

Feb 26, 2015

A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team led by a quantum information scientist at the University ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.