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Prototype Chip Made for Quantum Computing

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 12:51PM

Quantum computers are not here yet, but not for lack of trying. Instead of relying on electronic bits that can represent 0 or 1, quantum computers use qubits that can be 0 and 1 at the same time, but the medium for these qubits is still being decided on. One promising candidate is to use ions as qubits, and now researchers at MIT have created a prototype chip that allows for better control over them.

At the core of how quantum computers work is the quantum mechanical phenomenon, superposition, which is when a particle exists in mutually-exclusive states at the same time, such as spinning both clockwise and counterclockwise. These particles are the quantum bits, or qubits, and while there are options for what exactly they are, ions are likely the best understood of the choices. The thing about ions is that they can require large and complicated equipment to work with. For starters the ions have to be held in a trap, and while cage traps, with electrodes arranged like cage bars, work well, they are limited in size and realizing quantum computers will require large numbers of qubits. To that end, the MIT researchers are instead working with surface traps that have their electrodes covering a surface and the ions held slightly above them. In theory surface traps can be extended indefinitely.

Another issue the MIT researchers have addressed is how to control the ions. In a surface trap the ions can be just five micrometers apart, so hitting just the one you want with a laser from an optical table is very difficult. The solution here was to put a layer of glass and network of silicon nitride waveguides underneath the electrodes. Beneath holes in the electrodes are diffraction gratings within the waveguide, which direct the light up, into the holes and focuses it enough to hit single ions.

The next step for this work is to hopefully add light modulators to the diffraction gratings. This will make it possible to control how much light each ion qubit will receive, making it more efficient to program them.

Source: MIT

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