In Pursuit of Qubits, Uniting Subatomic Particles by the Billions
In a step toward a generation of ultrafast computers, physicists have used bursts of radio waves to briefly create 10 billion quantum-entangled pairs of subatomic particles in silicon. The research offers a glimpse of a future computing world in which individual atomic nuclei store and retrieve data and single electrons shuttle it back and forth.
In a paper in the journal Nature, a team led by the physicists John Morton of Oxford University and Kohei Itoh of Keio University describes bombarding a three-dimensional crystal with microwave and radio frequency pulses to create the entangled pairs. This is one of a range of competing approaches to making qubits, the quantum computing equivalent of today’s transistors.
Transistors store information on the basis of whether they are on or off. In the experiment, qubits store information in the form of the orientation, or spin, of an atomic nucleus or an electron. The storage ability is dependent on entanglement, in which a change in one particle instantaneously affects another particle even if they are widely separated. The new approach has significant potential, scientists said, because it might permit quantum computer designers to exploit low-cost and easily manufacturable components and technologies now widely used in the consumer electronics industry.