Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute have developed a microfabricated ion trap architecture that holds promise for increasing the density of qubits in future quantum computers
Quantum computers are in theory capable of simulating the interactions of molecules at a level of detail far beyond the capabilities of even the largest supercomputers today.
Such simulations could revolutionize chemistry, biology and material science, but the development of quantum computers has been limited by the ability to increase the number of quantum bits, or qubits, that encode, store and access large amounts of data.
In a paper appearing this week in the Journal of Applied Physics, from AIP Publishing, a team of researchers at Georgia Tech Research Institute and Honeywell International have demonstrated a new device that allows more electrodes to be placed on a chip -- an important step that could help increase qubit densities and bring us one step closer to a quantum computer that can simulate molecules or perform other algorithms of interest.
"To write down the quantum state of a system of just 300 qubits, you would need 2^300 numbers, roughly the number of protons in the known universe, so no amount of Moore's Law scaling will ever make it possible for a classical computer to process that many numbers," said Nicholas Guise, who led the research. "This is why it's impossible to fully simulate even a modest sized quantum system, let alone something like chemistry of complex molecules, unless we can build a quantum computer to do it."
While existing computers use classical bits of information, quantum computers use "quantum bits" or qubits to store information. Classical bits use either a 0 or 1, but a qubit, exploiting a weird quantum property called superposition, can actually be in both 0 and 1 simultaneously, allowing much more information to be encoded.
Since qubits can be correlated with each other in a way that classical bits cannot, they allow a new sort of massively parallel computation, but only if many qubits at a time can be produced and controlled. The challenge that the field has faced is scaling this technology up, much like moving from the first transistors to the first computers.
Creating the Building Blocks for Quantum Computing
One leading qubit candidate is individual ions trapped inside a vacuum chamber and manipulated with lasers. The scalability of current trap architectures is limited since the connections for the electrodes needed to generate the trapping fields come at the edge of the chip, and their number are therefore limited by the chip perimeter.
The GTRI/Honeywell approach uses new microfabrication techniques that allow more electrodes to fit onto the chip while preserving the laser access needed.
The team's design borrows ideas from a type of packaging called a ball grid array (BGA) that is used to mount integrated circuits. The ball grid array's key feature is that it can bring electrical signals directly from the backside of the mount to the surface, thus increasing the potential density of electrical connections.
The researchers also freed up more chip space by replacing area-intensive surface or edge capacitors with trench capacitors and strategically moving wire connections.
The space-saving moves allowed tight focusing of an addressing laser beam for fast operations on single qubits. Despite early difficulties bonding the chips, a solution was developed in collaboration with Honeywell, and the device was trapping ions from the very first day.
The team was excited with the results. "Ions are very sensitive to stray electric fields and other noise sources, and a few microns of the wrong material in the wrong place can ruin a trap. But when we ran the BGA trap through a series of benchmarking tests we were pleasantly surprised that it performed at least as well as all our previous traps," Guise said.
Working with trapped ion qubits currently requires a room full of bulky equipment and several graduate students to make it all run properly, so the researchers say much work remains to be done to shrink the technology. The BGA project demonstrated that it's possible to fit more and more electrodes on a surface trap chip while wiring them from the back of the chip in a compact and extensible way. However, there are a host of engineering challenges that still need to be addressed to turn this into a miniaturized, robust and nicely packaged system that would enable quantum computing, the researchers say.
In the meantime, these advances have applications beyond quantum computing. "We all hope that someday quantum computers will fulfill their vast promise, and this research gets us one step closer to that," Guise said. "But another reason that we work on such difficult problems is that it forces us to come up with solutions that may be useful elsewhere. For example, microfabrication techniques like those demonstrated here for ion traps are also very relevant for making miniature atomic devices like sensors, magnetometers and chip-scale atomic clocks."
The article, "Ball-grid array architecture for microfabricated ion traps," is authored by Nicholas D. Guise, Spencer D. Fallek, Kelly E. Stevens, K. R. Brown, Curtis Volin, Alexa W. Harter, Jason M. Amini, Robert E. Higashi, Son Thai Lu, Helen M. Chanhvongsak, Thi A. Nguyen, Matthew S. Marcus, Thomas R. Ohnstein and Daniel W. Youngner. It appears in the Journal of Applied Physics on May 5, 2015 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4917385). After that date, it can be accessed at: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/jap/117/17/10.1063/1.4917385
The researchers on this paper are affiliated with the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta, GA and Honeywell International in Golden Valley, MN.
This work was funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).
ABOUT THE JOURNAL
Journal of Applied Physics is an influential international journal publishing significant new experimental and theoretical results of applied physics research. See: http://jap.aip.org
Jason Socrates Bardi
Jason Socrates Bardi | newswise
Further reports about: > AIP > Applied Physics > Architecture > QUANTUM > complex molecules > electrical signals > integrated circuits > ion traps > ions > laser beam > material science > physics > physics research > quantum bits > quantum computer > quantum computers > quantum computing > quantum state > trap
Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences