MSU Developing a Launchpad for Flying Quantum Bits
(MSU.Today) Researchers led by Michigan State University’s Johannes Pollanen have developed a new device to help future quantum bits, or qubits (pronounced “Q bits”), take flight.
Using liquid helium and readily available modern telecommunications technology —based on so-called “surface acoustic wave” devices — the Spartan team has created a new way to precisely manipulate electrons. With this capability, scientists can envision building what are known as trapped-electron quantum computers powered by processors whose quantum bits are free to move — or fly — around.
“We’re developing tools to grab single quantum particles and control them. It’s very exciting work,” said Pollanen, a Jerry Cowen Endowed Chair of Experimental Physics in the College of Natural Science. “This work really opens up new possibilities for moving these electron qubits around.”
His team has now introduced a device that could one day help build flying qubits. The Spartans start with what’s known as a piezoelectric crystal. This may sound exotic, but these materials are widely used in today’s telecom devices.
Coating the piezoelectric is a thin layer of liquid helium, a very cold liquid that is just a little warmer than absolute zero. The researchers can then float electrons — particles that naturally store quantum information — above that pool.
“We drop the electrons in and they get stuck there, literally floating like 10 nanometers above the surface,” Pollanen said. “And this liquid helium surface is pristine. You don’t have to worry about defects like you would with semiconductors used in some quantum computing devices.”