Quantum computers, if they are ever fully realized, will open a world of possibilities. They could allows us to send information that is completely secure and unhackable. They could also perform certain operations far, far faster than traditional computers. And that's just the beginning. Ultimately, they would revolutionize modern industrial society.
There's just one problem: We don't know exactly how to make a quantum computer that works.
A significant obstacle to quantum computing is information loss resulting from the piezoelectric effect, which is a fluctuating of quantum states. But now, in a work published in the December issue of Nature Physics, researchers from the United States and Germany have used standard semiconductor materials and magnetism to stabilize quantum states and prevent information loss.
As a refresher, in traditional computers, data is represented by 0 and 1. Those are the only two states that data can be rendered in—0 or 1. However, quantum computation, unlike what we are used to, uses quantum bits (or qubits) to perform calculations. These exist in both states of 0 and 1 at the same time. This is called “superposition.” By exploiting this condition, qubit operations can perform computations in parallel.
See this post to learn more about how quantum computers work or watch the video below (or check them both out).
In short, in the most recent study, the team created a specific nanostructure and then used a cooling mechanism to trap electrons inside quantum dots.
To break this down, researchers used an electron in their quantum system within which they stored information with its spin states. The electron was trapped within a nano structure composed of standard semiconductor materials. They used indium gallium arsenide and gallium arsenide to create a lattice nanostructure that results in a strain between the two structures and form small “hills” and are referred to as quantum dots. When the dots are cooled down to −269 °C, it is possible to trap an electron within the quantum dot.
The study states that trapping the electrons is the key to this whole puzzle. They assert, “the same strain that enables the creation of quantum dots also undermines the fidelity of the stored information by creating small electrical fields, ultimately leading to rapid loss of information as the electrical field causes the spin state of the trapped electron to fluctuate.”
To combat this, the researchers employed 1.5 Tesla magnet to the system to stabilize the quantum spin and prevent that information loss. This is all achieved using existing semiconductor materials which means that the existing technology is sufficient to harmonize the system.
Now, this doesn't mean that, thanks to this research, we will have fully functioning quantum computers available for commercial use. There are still a lot of problems to overcome. But it is a notable step forward.