"Quantum computing is ideal for studying biological systems, doing cryptography or data mining – in fact, solving any problem with many variables," states Professor Jelena Vuckovic. "When people talk about finding a needle in a haystack, that's where quantum computing comes in."
In her own studies of nearly 20 years, Vuckovic has focused on one aspect of the challenge: creating new types of quantum computer chips that would become the building blocks of future systems.
"To fully realize the promise of quantum computing we will have to develop technologies that can operate in normal environments," she said. "The materials we are exploring bring us closer toward finding tomorrow's quantum processor."
The challenge for Vuckovic's team is developing materials that can trap a single, isolated electron. Working with collaborators worldwide, they have recently tested three different approaches to the problem, one of which can operate at room temperature – a critical step if quantum computing is going to become a practical tool.
In all three cases the group started with semiconductor crystals, material with a regular atomic lattice like the girders of a skyscraper. By slightly altering this lattice, they sought to create a structure in which the atomic forces exerted by the material could confine a spinning electron.
"We are trying to develop the basic working unit of a quantum chip, the equivalent of the transistor on a silicon chip," states Vuckovic. "We don't know yet which approach is best, so we continue to experiment."
Excerpted from the Stanford News, "Stanford team brings quantum computing closer to reality with new materials".
Photo credit: Amanda Law