Most of us know that quantum computers are the future- but getting there is one of the biggest struggles for even the most intelligent of researchers. Now, researchers at Caltech have finally made the first step we’ve all been waiting for.
Computers store information into binary code, which is just a whole bunch of 1s and 0s connected to each other. The main difference between traditional and quantum computers though, is that traditional computes can only store information in bits as either exclusively a 1 or a 0. Quantum computers, on the other hand, can be both at the same time.
Now, to store these quantum bits, we need something with very little mass and charge. Photos of light have little to none of both, making them perfect for quantum computers. Sadly, the biggest problem is actually getting them to store and transmit the data. But after years of other researchers trying and failing, Caltech has finally figured out the solution.
They had created a chip using memory nodules measuring only 700 nm by 15 microns, which is about the size of a red blood cell, using crystals coated in rare-earth ions. It was these ions that help the modules absorb each individual photon that was embedded into it with a laser.
Initial tests show that the chips were successfully able to store data for 75 nanoseconds before release, with only a 3 percent rate of failure. It’s still not enough though, as a quantum computer would need chips that can retain data for at least 1 millisecond. The researchers are working on it though, and hope to reach the one millisecond goal in the future, plus finding a way to actually incorporate the chips into quantum circuits.
Source: YouTube, Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
The team still has a lot of work to be done, but they’re pretty proud of their current accomplishments. “Such a device is an essential component for the future development of optical quantum networks that could be used to transmit quantum information,” explains Andrei Faraon, co-author of the study, and assistant professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech.
“This technology not only leads to extreme miniaturization of quantum memory devices, it also enables better control of the interactions between individual photons and atoms,” adds Tian Zhong , lead author of the study, and postdoctoral scholar at Caltech.