Researchers at the University of Michigans Center for Optical Coherent and Ultrafast Science (FOCUS) and Department of Physics have reported the first demonstration of laser-cooling of individual trapped atoms of different species. This may be an important step in the construction of a future "quantum computer," in which quantum superpositions of inputs are processed simultaneously in a single device. Trapped atoms offer one of the only realistic approaches to precisely controlling the complex quantum systems underlying a quantum computer.
The demonstration is described in the April 2002 issue of Physical Review in an article, "Sympathetic Cooling of Trapped Cd+ Isotopes," by Boris B. Blinov, Louis Deslauriers, Patricia Lee, Martin J. Madsen, Russ Miller, and Christopher Monroe. Partially based on these results, Monroe has proposed a new "Architecture for a Large-Scale Ion-Trap Quantum Computer," with co-authors David Kielpinski (MIT) and David Wineland (National Institute of Standards and Technology), in the June 13 issue of the journal Nature.
Interest in quantum computing has mushroomed in the last decade as its potential for efficiently solving difficult computing tasks, like factoring large numbers and searching large databases, has become evident. Encryption and its obverse, codebreaking, are just two of the applications envisioned for quantum computing if and when it becomes a practical technology. Quantum computation has captured the imagination of the scientific community, recasting some of the most puzzling aspects of quantum physics---once pondered by Einstein, Schroedinger and others---in the context of advancing computer science. "Right now, theres a lot of black magic involved in understanding what makes a quantum computer tick and how to actually build one," Monroe said. "Many physicists doubt well ever be able to do it, but Im an optimist. We may not get there for decades, but given enough time and resources---and failing unexpected roadblocks like the failure of quantum mechanics---we should be able to design and build a useable quantum computer. Its a risky business, but the potential payoff is huge."
Judy Steeh | EurekAlert
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