The key to improving quantum computing is a better understanding of how electrons behave in solids. Thanks to the collaboration of physicists with University of Michigan and the University of Regensburg, it was possible to capture the motion of electrons on the attosecond scale. Details are described in the magazine temper nature.
The most accurate clock on Earth
An attosecond (as) is a unit of time equal to one trillionth of a second (10-18 s). The prefix “atto-” comes from the Danish word eighteen (Dulcet). 1 attosecond is the time that a photon travels a distance equal to twelve hydrogen atoms in diameter.
Monitoring the movement of electrons in attosecond time can help speed up data processing by up to a billion times. We can all benefit from this.
a. Makilu Kira of the University of Michigan says:
Your computer’s processor runs in gigahertz, a billionth of a second per process. In quantum computing, this is very slow because electrons inside a computer chip collide trillions of times per second, and each collision completes the quantum computing cycle. What we needed to push the performance forward were snapshots of the electron’s motion a billion times faster. And now we have it.
To see the movement of electrons within 2D quantum materials, scientists typically use short bursts of intense ultraviolet (XUV) radiation. They can detect the activity of electrons attached to the nucleus of an atom. However, the large amount of energy contained in these explosions makes it impossible to clearly see electrons as they travel through semiconductors, as is the case in current computers and materials used in quantum computing.
The scientists applied two light pulses with energy scales corresponding to the moving electrons of the semiconductor. The first – a pulse of infrared light – puts the electrons in a state that allows them to move through the material. The second – a terahertz pulse (low energy) – forces these electrons into controlled collisions. The collisions produce flashes of light whose precise timing reveals the interactions behind quantum information and exotic quantum matter.
a. Makilu Kira adds:
We used two pulses – one that strongly matches the state of the electron, and then one that causes that state to change. We can basically depict how these two pulses change the quantum state of the electron and then express it as a function of time.
Quantum materials can contain strong magnetic, superconducting or superconducting phases, and quantum computing presents the potential to solve problems that would otherwise be time-consuming with conventional computers and those that are currently difficult to access.
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