Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Future computer: Atoms packed in an ’egg carton’ of light?

26.04.2005


Scientists at Ohio State University have taken a step toward the development of powerful new computers -- by making tiny holes that contain nothing at all.



The holes -- dark spots in an egg carton-shaped surface of laser light -- could one day cradle atoms for quantum computing. Worldwide, scientists are racing to develop computers that exploit the quantum mechanical properties of atoms, explained Greg Lafyatis, associate professor of physics at Ohio State . These so-called quantum computers could enable much faster computing than is possible today. One strategy for making quantum computers involves packaging individual atoms on a chip so that laser beams can read quantum data.

Lafyatis and doctoral student Katharina Christandl recently designed a chip with a top surface of laser light that functions as an array of tiny traps, each of which could potentially hold a single atom. The design could enable quantum data to be read the same way CDs are read today. They described their work in the journal Physical Review A.


Other research teams have created similar arrays, called optical lattices, but those designs present problems that could make them hard to use in practice. Other lattices lock atoms into a multi-layered cube floating in free space. But manipulating atoms in the center of the cube would be difficult. The Ohio State lattice has a more practical design, with a single layer of atoms grounded just above a glass chip. Each atom could be manipulated directly with a single laser beam.

The lattice forms where two sets of laser beams cross inside a thin transparent coating on the chip. The beams interfere with each other to create a grid of peaks and valleys -- the egg carton-shaped pattern of light.

The physicists expected to see that much when they first modeled their lattice design on computer. But to their surprise, the simulations showed that each valley contained a dark spot, a tiny empty sphere surrounded by electric fields that seemed ideally suited for trapping single atoms and holding them in place, Lafyatis said.

In the laboratory, he and Christandl were able to create an optical lattice of light, though the traps are too tiny to see with the naked eye. The next step is to see if the traps actually work as the model predicts. “We’re pretty sure we can trap atoms -- the first step towards making a quantum memory chip,” Lafyatis said. A working computer based on the design is many years away, though, he cautioned.

In fact, Christandl suspects that they are at least two years away from being able to isolate one atom per trap -- the physical arrangement required for a true quantum memory device. “Right now, we’re just trying to get atoms into the traps, period,” she said.

So far, they’ve been able to form about a billion gaseous rubidium atoms into a pea-sized cloud with magnetic fields. Now they are working to move that cloud into position above a chip supporting the optical lattice.

Theoretically, if they release the atoms above the chip in just the right way, the atoms will fall into the traps. They hope to be able to perform that final test before Christandl graduates in August. Should they succeed, the payoff is potentially huge.

Both the government and industry are interested in quantum computing because traditional chips are expected to reach a kind of technological speed limit in a decade or so. When that happens, faster, more powerful computers will require a new kind of hardware.

A “bit” in normal computer chips can only encode data as one of two possibilities: either a one or a zero -- the numbers that make up binary code. But if quantum theorists are correct, quantum bits, or qubits, will enable more efficient problem solving because a qubit can simultaneously encode both a zero and a one. This allows the quantum computer to efficiently carry out a large number of calculations simultaneously. “In principle, quantum computers would need only 10,000 qubits to outperform today’s state-of-the-art computers with billions and billions of regular bits,” Lafyatis said.

Scientists have speculated that qubits could enable long-distance communication and code breaking. But Christandl thinks that the technology could serve an even larger purpose for science in general, by powering computer simulations.

Quantum mechanics tries to explain how atoms and molecules behave at a fundamental level, so simulations of quantum systems could advance research in areas as diverse as astrophysics, genetics, and materials science. “The quantum computer is the ideal tool for those simulations, because it is a quantum system itself,” Christandl said.

Coauthors on the paper included Jin-Fa Lee, associate professor of electrical engineering, and doctoral student Seung-Cheol Lee of Ohio State’s ElectroScience Laboratory. The Research Corporation funded this work.

Greg Lafyatis | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

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...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

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...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

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...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

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...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>