Ultracold Molecules Heating Up the Upcoming Field of Quantum Computing


Date : Aug 10, 2017 Author : Suyog Keluskar Category : Technology

Recent research in ultracold molecules could make them the vehicle required for quantum computing

Qubits, the building blocks of the quantum computing market, are still mostly a work in progress. Researchers have a number of theories for how they can be built and they have tried it with different types of individual neural atoms, molecules, superconducting materials, and ions in ion traps – each with varying degrees of success. However, a team at the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms has brought the concept of quantum computing one step closer from fiction to fact by creating qubits that can retain stored data for hundreds of times longer than current technology.

The Harvard team’s research uses simple two-atom molecules consisting of sodium and potassium, cooled to a temperature just slightly over a degree above absolute zero. The team could effortlessly control the molecules, achieve the minimal state of nuclear spin alignment, vibration, and rotation. The control coupled with the molecular chemical stability allowed for a coherence period of one second.

Martin Zwierlein, professor of physics at MIT, made it clear in a news briefing that their team is extremely hopeful that they can do the so-called ‘gate’ i.e. an operation between two qubits such as subtraction, addition, or its equivalent in the fraction of a millisecond. If the ratio is seen, one could theoretically perform up to 100,000 gate operations in the time that the coherence is available in the sample. The ratio of coherence times to gate operations has been stated as one of the critical requirements in the quantum computing market

The biggest advantage is that the molecules are a system that could enable realizing both the processing and storage needed in the quantum computing market, with the same physical system. This is extremely rare and unheard of in qubit systems under consideration in the present day and age.

If the Harvard team is correct, an array of approx. 1000 molecules could carry out calculations of such a complex nature that no existing computer could verify them. The difficulty of factoring massive numbers rapidly creates the base for a sound encryption system that secures modern-day financial transactions. The experts emphasized that their discovery is just the first step on the path to better systems in the quantum computing market and actual systems could easily be a decade or two away. However, they are already looking at the next major milestones in the quantum computing market.

One of the best examples of this is ‘individual molecules’. If a single molecule is trapped, it may well become possible to trap two. Then teams can focus on the implementation of a ‘quantum gate operation’ between two molecular qubits located right next to one another. In addition to quantum computing, the system can also offer a potential new way of carrying out quantum chemistry and precision measurements.


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