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Ultra-Thin Wires for Quantum Computing

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SOURCE AIP Advances

Carefully fabricating nanofibers by heating and pulling may make for highly-efficient, optics-based, low-power atom traps

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Take a fine strand of silica fiber, attach it at each end to a slow-turning motor, gently torture it over an unflickering flame until it just about reaches its melting point and then pull it apart. The middle will thin out like a piece of taffy until it is less than half a micron across -- about 200 times thinner than a human hair.

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That, according to researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland, is how you fabricate ultrahigh transmission optical nanofibers, a potential component for future quantum information devices, which they describe in AIP Publishing's journal AIP Advances.

Quantum computers promise enormous power, but are notoriously tricky to build. To encode information in qubits, the fundamental units of a quantum computer, the bits must be held in a precarious position called a superposition of states. In this fragile condition the bits exist in all of their possible configurations at the same time, meaning they can perform multiple parallel calculations.

The tendency of qubits to lose their superposition state too quickly, a phenomenon known as decoherence, is a major obstacle to the further development of quantum computers and any device dependent on superpositions. To address this challenge, researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute proposed a hybrid quantum processor that uses trapped atoms as the memory and superconducting qubits as the processor, as atoms demonstrate relatively long superposition survival times and superconducting qubits perform operations quickly.

"The idea is that we can get the best of both worlds," said Jonathan Hoffman, a graduate student in the Joint Quantum Institute who works in the lab of principal investigators Steven Rolston and Luis Orozco. However, a problem is that superconductors don't like high optical power or magnetic fields and most atomic traps use both, Hoffman said. 

This is where the optical nanofibers come in: The Joint Quantum Institute team realized that nanofibers could create optics-based, low-power atom traps that would "play nice" with superconductors. Because the diameter of the fibers is so minute -- 530 nm, less than the wavelength of light used to trap atoms -- some of the light leaks outside of the fiber as a so-called evanescent wave, which can be used to trap atoms a few hundred nm from the fiber surface.

Hoffman and his colleagues have worked on optical nanofiber atom traps for the past few years. Their AIP Advances paper describes a new procedure they developed that maximizes the efficiency of the traps through careful and precise fabrication methods.

The group's procedure, which yields an improvement of two orders of magnitude less transmission loss than previous work, focuses on intensive preparation and cleaning of the pre-pulling environment the nanofibers are created in.

The article, "Ultrahigh transmission optical nanofibers," is authored by J.E. Hoffman, S. Ravets, J.A. Grover, P. Solano, P.R. Kordell, J.D. Wong-Campos, L.A. Orozco and S.L. Rolston. It will be published in AIP Advances on June 17, 2014 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4879799). After that date, it may be accessed at: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/adva/4/6/10.1063/1.4879799

ABOUT THE JOURNAL
AIP Advances is a fully open access, online-only, community-led journal.  It covers all areas of applied physical science.  With its advanced web 2.0 functionality, the journal puts relevant content and discussion tools in the hands of the community to shape the direction of the physical sciences. See: http://aipadvances.aip.org

Jason Socrates Bardi
+1 240-535-4954
jbardi@aip.org

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