An artist’s impression of how a nanometre-scale electrode is used to control the quantum state of a single nucleus. Image credit: UNSW/Tony Melov
A team of researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) claim to have made an accidental breakthrough that could prove revolutionary in the field of quantum computing.
The researchers said they were able to control the nucleus of a single atom, for the first time, using just electric fields.
The idea of controlling an atomic nucleus through electric fields was first proposed by Nicolaas Bloembergen, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, in 1961. However, scientists were never able to achieve that practically until now.
We now have a pathway to build quantum computers using single-atom spins without the need for any oscillating magnetic field
The UNSW researchers say they were originally trying to carry out magnetic resonance experiments on a single atom of antimony, an element that possesses a large nuclear spin. However, during the experiment, they observed a weird behaviour from the nucleus. It didn’t respond to some specific frequencies, but exhibited a strong response for other frequencies.
The observations puzzled the researchers for a while, until they realised that they had actually achieved electric resonance instead of magnetic resonance.
The team believes the novel breakthrough could open-up an array of opportunities for quantum computing.
The new discovery, however, could provide scientists with an easy and cost-effective way to manipulate such a nucleus with more-manageable electric fields.
Producing magnetic fields requires large coils and high currents, but electric fields can be easily generated on the top of a small electrode.
“This discovery means that we now have a pathway to build quantum computers using single-atom spins without the need for any oscillating magnetic field for their operation,” said UNSW’s Scientia Professor of Quantum Engineering Andrea Morello, who is also the lead researcher of the study.
“Moreover, we can use these nuclei as exquisitely precise sensors of electric and magnetic fields, or to answer fundamental questions in quantum science,” he added.
The detailed findings of the study are published in journal Nature.
.(tagsToTranslate)University of New South Wales(t)UNSW(t)Nicolaas Bloembergen(t)Andrea Morello(t)quantum computing(t)magnetic resonance
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