A trio of quantum physicists advancing the science behind attosecond laser pulses have been awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize. Researchers Pierre Agostini (of Ohio State University), Ferenc Krausz (of Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in Germany) and Anne L’Huillier (of Lund University, Sweden) were cited for “experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter” by the Nobel Prize Committee as the reason for this award.
Attosecond laser pulses are incredibly short bursts of laser light that last a few quintillionths (10^-18) of a second, or attoseconds. These ultra-short pulses are produced using advanced techniques in ultrafast laser technology.
Attosecond laser pulses are so brief that they allow scientists to probe and control electron dynamics on an attosecond timescale, enabling them to explore the quantum behavior of electrons within atoms and molecules. This has large implications for the future of quantum computing, from gate preparations to error correction.
Controlling Qubits In an Ultrafast Way
Attosecond lasers can precisely manipulate the quantum states of electrons within atoms and molecules. This level of control is essential for quantum computing, where qubits (quantum bits) are used to encode and process information. Attosecond laser pulses can help initialize, manipulate, and read out qubits, helping to streamline the quantum computing process.
These pulses can also be helpful for quantum state preparation. Quantum computers rely on the ability to prepare qubits in specific quantum states. Attosecond lasers can assist in creating and preparing the necessary quantum states by precisely controlling the superposition and entanglement of quantum bits. Because many types of quantum computers rely on phenomena like entanglement or superposition, attosecond lasers can be influential in making the computers run smoother and ensure that the qubits are in the right state for computation.
Preparing Quantum Gates Using Lasers
Quantum gates are the fundamental building blocks of quantum circuits, as they help process information. Attosecond lasers can implement precise quantum gate operations by exploiting the coherence and interference of quantum states on ultrafast timescales. This makes the gate process more streamlined and in sync with the rest of the circuit, allowing for more efficient computing.
Mitigating Quantum Errors With Attosecond Laser Pulses
Quantum computers are susceptible to errors, and correction is crucial for building practical quantum machines. Because of higher error rates, many quantum computing companies and research groups are working diligently to find ways to mitigate these errors. Attosecond lasers can be used to study and mitigate specific errors in quantum systems, contributing to the development of fault-tolerant quantum computing.
Thanks to the influential work of Nobel Laureates in Physics, Agostini, Krausz, and L’Huillier, researchers and companies worldwide have an ultraprecise tool that offers a range of applications in quantum computing development. These attosecond laser pulses play a vital role in advancing our understanding of quantum phenomena and have the potential to enhance various aspects of quantum computing, from qubit control and state preparation to quantum gate operations and error correction.
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, quantum computing, and AI. Her work has been featured in Scientific American, New Scientist, Discover Magazine, Ars Technica, and more.