(SciTechDaily) A team led by physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley has successfully observed the scrambling of quantum information, which is thought to underlie the behavior of black holes, using qutrits: information-storing quantum units that can represent three separate states at the same time. Their efforts also pave the way for building a quantum information processor based upon qutrits.
The team’s technical milestones that made the experiment possible represent important progress toward using more complex quantum processors for quantum computing, cryptography, and error detection, among other applications.
While black holes are considered one of the most destructive forces in the universe – matter and light cannot escape their pull, and are quickly and thoroughly scrambled once they enter – there has been considerable debate about whether and how information is lost after passing into a black hole.
Most efforts in quantum computing seek to tap into this phenomenon by encoding information as entangled quantum bits, known as qubits (pronounced CUE-bits). That said, there are a number of technical hurdles to building quantum computers with a large number of quantum bits that can operate reliably and efficiently in solving problems in a truly quantum way.
In this latest study, researchers detail how they developed a quantum processor capable of encoding and transmitting information using a series of five qutrits, which can each simultaneously represent three states. And despite the typically noisy, imperfect, and error-prone environment of quantum circuity, they found that their platform proved surprisingly resilient and robust.
Qutrits can have a value of zero, one, or two, holding all of these states in superposition. In the coin analogy, it’s like a coin that has the possibility of coming up as heads, tails, or in landing on its thin edge.
The team set out to replicate the type of rapid quantum information smearing, or scrambling, in an experiment that used tiny devices called nonlinear harmonic oscillators as qutrits. These nonlinear harmonic oscillators are essentially sub-micron-sized weights on springs that can be driven at several distinct frequencies when subjected to microwave pulses.
A key to the study was in preserving the coherence, or orderly patterning, of the signal carried by the oscillators for long enough to confirm that quantum scrambling was occurring via the teleportation of a qutrit. While teleportation may conjure up sci-fi imagery of “beaming up” people or objects from a planet’s surface onto a spaceship, in this case there is only the transmission of information – not matter – from one location to another via quantum entanglement.

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