For many decades now we have been enjoying electronic computers but in the future we may see a drastic change to how computations are done as quantum computers come into existence. Instead of relying on bits that can hold one of two values, quantum computers use qubits that can hold both of two values. This use of quantum mechanics enables a quantum computer to take advantage of mathematics not available to modern computers, but research at the Joint Quantum Institute and Princeton University may bring these two different technologies a little closer.
The researchers have shown it is possible to make spin-orbit qubits and this may lead to quantum information buses similar to modern electronic buses in computers. Spin-orbit qubits use the composite spin of two electrons to store information in a way that is less susceptible to environmental factors. This is important as a quantum system can collapse due to such factors. To achieve this, the researchers held the electrons in cavities and took advantage of spin-orbit coupling, where the spins of the electrons become linked with those of the atomic nuclei that make up that cavity itself. This makes it possible for an electric signal that affects the cavity to magnetically affect the electrons.
Achieving that conversion from an electrical effect to a magnetic effect is not easy, which is what protects the quantum state from environmental factors. Whether that protection will be enough to add spin-orbit qubits to the list of viable qubit possibilities is hard to say, but it certainly helps.