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Princeton researchers close in on quantum computing

Posted: 23 Oct 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Spintronics? electrons? quantum computing? microwave photons?

A technique to read spintronic information off electrons has been developed by researchers from Princeton University. The new technique could offer a potential step to the road towards quantum computing.

A concept in which information is passed by the spin on electronics rather than their charge, spintronics promises to revolutionise the computing industry with smaller, faster and more energy efficient data storage and processing.

Headed by Jason Petta, the Princeton team used a stream of microwave photons to analyse a pair of electrons trapped in a tiny cage called a quantum dot. The microwave stream allowed the scientists to read the spin state of the electrons.

"We create a cavity with mirrors on both endsbut they don't reflect visible light, they reflect microwave radiation," Petta said. "Then we send microwaves in one end, and we look at the microwaves as they come out the other end. The microwaves are affected by the spin states of the electrons in the cavity, and we can read that change."

Figure: A circuit uses microwaves to read the quantum state of an electron, a potentially scalable route to developing a quantum computer.
Credit: Jason Petta/Princeton University.

The apparatus created by Petta's team operates over a little more than one centimeter. But, on a subatomic scale, this distance is vastthe team likened the project to coordinating the motion of a top spinning on the moon with another on the surface of the earth.

"It's the most amazing thing," said Jake Taylor, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland, who worked on the project with the Princeton team. "You have a single electron almost completely changing the properties of an inch-long electrical system."

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