David Kirkpatrick

September 3, 2008

Advances toward quantum computing

News from PhysOrg:

MIT researchers may have found a way to overcome a key barrier to the advent of super-fast quantum computers, which could be powerful tools for applications such as code breaking. Ever since Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman first proposed the theory of quantum computing more than two decades ago, researchers have been working to build such a device.

One approach involves superconducting devices that, when cooled to temperatures of nearly absolute zero (-459 degrees F, -273 degrees C), can be made to behave like artificial atoms – nanometer-scale “boxes” in which the electrons are forced to exist at specific, discrete energy levels (picture an elevator that can stop at the floors of a building but not in between). But traditional scientific techniques for characterizing – and therefore better understanding – atoms and molecules do not necessarily translate easily to artificial atoms, said William Oliver of MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s Analog Device Technology Group and MIT’s Research Laboratory for Electronics (RLE).

In the Sept. 4 issue of Nature, Oliver and colleagues have reported a technique that could fill that gap. Oliver’s co-authors are lead author David Berns, a graduate student in physics and RLE; Mark Rudner, also a graduate student in physics; Sergio Valenzuela, a research affiliate at MIT’s Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory; Karl Berggren, the Emanuel E. Landsman Career Development Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS); Professor Leonid Levitov of physics; and EECS Professor Terry Orlando. The work is a hallmark of the increased collaboration between researchers on the MIT campus and at Lincoln Laboratory.

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