Physicists Find New Way to Store Quantum Information in Impure Diamonds
Whatâ€™s the News: Physicists have worked out a new method of storing information in the quantum states of atoms in diamond crystals. The scientists linked the spin of individual nitrogen atoms in the diamondâ€”impurities at the jewelry counter, but boons in the physics labâ€”to the spin of nearby electrons. They could form a quantum link between the spin of the nitrogen atom and the spin of a nearby electron, letting the electron store information more stably than if it were spinning on its own.
How the Heck:
- When a nitrogen is next to an empty spot in a diamondâ€™s carbon framework, it lets off an extra electron, leaving that electron free to have its quantum played around with.
- Using what they call â€œintense microwave fieldsâ€ [PDF], the physicists were able to link the spin of a nitrogen atom to a neighboring electron, a pairing sparked by magnetic fields.
Whatâ€™s the Context:
- Scientists have been looking at diamondsâ€”with and without nitrogen impuritiesâ€”as a quantum computing material for several years, in part because it can store quantum memory at room temperature, not the far-below-freezing temps required by some other materials.
- Some have even proposed the idea of diamond supercomputers, which would store millions of times as much data as todayâ€™s machines.
- One hurdle in quantum computing is getting the information to last long enough to use it. In the recent study, the nuclear spin stayed coherent for more than a millisecondâ€”enough time for a ten petaflop supercomputer to do ten trillion operations.
Not so Fast:
- Donâ€™t start rooting around in your hard drive for a rock just yet; diamond-based quantum computing is still a long way off.
Reference: â€œQuantum control and nanoscale placement of single spins in diamond.â€ David D. Awschalom, invited talk, American Physical Society March Meeting 2011
Image: Flickr / Swamibu