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article imageAltering electrons for improved quantum computing

By Tim Sandle     Jul 1, 2018 in Technology
Two new ways to manipulate electron interactions, from Purdue University, open up new possibilities for the design and scaling up of quantum computing devices.
Quantum computing is about computing using quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement. A true quantum computer remains the goal of many research institutes plus big technology players like IBM and Microsoft.
With the two key phenomena, superposition is a principle that runs that, much like waves in classical physics, any two (or more) quantum states can be added together (or "superposed"). Here the outcome will be another valid quantum state. With entanglement, this is a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated, interact, or share physical proximity in ways which means that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the state of the other.
This leads into ways of controlling electrons. An important quantum physical property of electrons is up or down spin. This is necessary to process and store information. The use of spin is different to other ways of moving electrons around with electricity as conventional computing does.
This is why studying electrons has featured in the two Purdue University research strands. The first study discovered that hydrostatic pressure can tune the interaction between paired and lined-up electron arrangements, tailoring them to desired properties and increasing device design options.
The importance of this with the way that electrons paired as composite particles or arranged in lines interact with each other within a semiconductor. Understanding this provides new design opportunities for electronics.
The researchers showed how hydrostatic pressure can be used to tune interaction with electrons so that electrons paired as composite particles switch between different phases. Forcing these phases to interact means they can influence each other's properties, like stability. This should open up possibilities for manipulation in electronic devices and quantum computing.
The first study appears in Nature Communications, with the research titled “Electron–electron interactions and the paired-to-nematic quantum phase transition in the second Landau level.”
The second study discovered the interaction of an electron's spin with its motion (or spin-orbit interaction) on the surface of silicon, where millions of quantum bits are located. Changing the strength of this interaction affects the quality and lifetime of a quantum bit. This research, which is pending publication, looked at the potential use of various materials to help stabilize the quantum realm.
More about Computers, quantum computing, Electrons, Electronics
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