Revolutionary new Qubit platform could transform quantum computing

Single Electron Qubit Platform in Solid Neon

An illustration of the qubit platform made of a single electron in solid neon. The researchers froze neon gas into a solid at very low temperatures, sprayed electrons from a lightbulb onto the solid, and trapped a single electron there to create a qubit. Credit: Courtesy of Dafei Jin/Argonne National Laboratory

The digital device you are using to view this article no doubt uses the bit, which can be 0 or 1, as its basic unit of information. However, scientists around the world are racing to develop a new kind of computer based on the use of quantum bits, or qubits, which can be simultaneously 0 and 1 and could one day solve complex problems beyond any classical supercomputer.

A research team led by scientists from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, in close collaboration with Wei Guo, an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, has announced the creation of a new qubit platform that shows great promise for future quantum computers. His work is published in the magazine Nature.

“Quantum computers could be a revolutionary tool for performing calculations that are virtually impossible for classical computers, but there is still work to be done to make them a reality,” said Guo, a co-author of the paper. “With this research, we believe we have a breakthrough that goes a long way toward creating qubits that help harness the potential of this technology.”

The team created their qubit by freezing neon gas in a solid at very low temperatures, spraying electrons from a light bulb onto the solid, and trapping a single electron there.

wei guo

FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Wei Guo. Credit: Florida State University

While there are many options for qubit types, the team chose the simplest: a single electron. Heating a simple filament of light such as might be found in a child’s toy can easily fire off an unlimited supply of electrons.

An important quality of qubits is their ability to remain in a simultaneous 0 or 1 state for a long time, which is known as “coherence time”. That time is limited, and the limit is determined by how the qubits interact with their surroundings. Defects in the qubit system can significantly reduce the coherence time.

For that reason, the team chose to trap an electron on a surface of ultrapure solid neon in a vacuum. Neon is one of the six inert elements, which means that it does not react with other elements.

“Because of this inertia, solid neon can serve as the cleanest possible solid in a vacuum to house and protect any qubits from disruption,” said Dafei Jin, an Argonne scientist and principal investigator on the project.

By using a chip-scale superconducting resonator, like a miniature microwave oven, the team was able to manipulate the trapped electrons, allowing them to read and store information from the qubit, making it useful for use in future computers. quantum.

Previous research used liquid helium as a medium to retain electrons. That material was easy to make flawless, but vibrations from the liquid-free surface could easily alter the state of the electrons and thus compromise the qubit’s performance.

Solid neon offers a material with few defects that does not vibrate like liquid helium. After building their platform, the team performed real-time qubit operations using microwave photons on a trapped electron and characterized its quantum properties. These tests showed that solid neon provided a robust environment for the electron with very little electrical noise to disturb it. More importantly, the qubit achieved quantum-state coherence times competitive with other state-of-the-art qubits.

The simplicity of the qubit platform should also lend itself to simple, low-cost manufacturing, Jin said.

the promise of[{” attribute=””>quantum computing lies in the ability of this next-generation technology to calculate certain problems much faster than classical computers. Researchers aim to combine long coherence times with the ability of multiple qubits to link together — known as entanglement. Quantum computers thereby could find the answers to problems that would take a classical computer many years to resolve.

Consider a problem where researchers want to find the lowest energy configuration of a protein made of many amino acids. These amino acids can fold in trillions of ways that no classical computer has the memory to handle. With quantum computing, one can use entangled qubits to create a superposition of all folding configurations — providing the ability to check all possible answers at the same time and solve the problem more efficiently.

“Researchers would just need to do one calculation, instead of trying trillions of possible configurations,” Guo said.

For more on this research, see New Qubit Breakthrough Could Revolutionize Quantum Computing.

Reference: “Single electrons on solid neon as a solid-state qubit platform” by Xianjing Zhou, Gerwin Koolstra, Xufeng Zhang, Ge Yang, Xu Han, Brennan Dizdar, Xinhao Li, Ralu Divan, Wei Guo, Kater W. Murch, David I. Schuster and Dafei Jin, 4 May 2022, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04539-x

The team published its findings in a Nature article titled “Single electrons on solid neon as a solid-state qubit platform.” In addition to Jin, Argonne contributors include first author Xianjing Zhou, Xufeng Zhang, Xu Han, Xinhao Li, and Ralu Divan. Contributors from the University of Chicago were David Schuster and Brennan Dizdar. Other co-authors were Kater Murch of Washington University in St. Louis, Gerwin Koolstra of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Ge Yang of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Funding for the Argonne research primarily came from the DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Argonne’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and the Julian Schwinger Foundation for Physics Research. Guo is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

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