‘Forbidden’ light wave tool could lead to ‘crazy-fast’ quantum computers

2 Jul 2019

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Researchers working to overcome one of the biggest bottleneck developments for future quantum computers have achieved something remarkable.

A breakthrough in the murky and little-understood field of quantum matter and energy at terahertz and nanometre scales – trillions of cycles per second and billionths of metres – could be a defining moment for quantum computers.

In a paper published to Nature Photonics, a team from Iowa State University has developed a “control knob” to accelerate supercurrents that could lead to the development of incredibly fast quantum computers.

Supercurrents exist in the field of superconductivity where electricity moves through certain materials without resistance, almost always at extremely cold temperatures. Terahertz light, meanwhile, is light at incredibly high frequencies, equating to extremely powerful microwave bursts for very short periods of time.

Jigang Wang and the team were able to demonstrate that terahertz light can be used to control some of the essential quantum properties of superconducting states. This included accessing certain very high-frequency quantum oscillations thought to be forbidden by symmetry.

“Light-induced supercurrents chart a path forward for electromagnetic design of emergent materials properties and collective coherent oscillations for quantum engineering applications,” the research team wrote in the paper. The team added that this could “create crazy-fast quantum computers by nudging supercurrents”.

A new arena

A summary of the study said experimental data obtained from a terahertz spectroscopy instrument indicates terahertz light-wave tuning of supercurrents is a universal tool “and is key for pushing quantum functionalities to reach their ultimate limits in many cross-cutting disciplines”.

The researchers added: “We believe that it is fair to say that the present study opens a new arena of light-wave superconducting electronics via terahertz quantum control for many years to come.”

In Ireland, efforts in the development of a ubiquitous quantum computer recently saw the Irish Centre for High-End Computing receive a €150,000 cash injection from Intel and Enterprise Ireland. As part of the effort, they will work on a new collaborative quantum computing project.

The project aims to produce results on Intel’s software quantum simulator for a problem in natural language processing. It will be the first collaboration of its kind in Ireland, and potentially worldwide.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic