Aussie research drives quantum computing forward

By: Louise Durack
08 March, 2012

The future of quantum computing has taken a step forward following a groundbreaking first by scientists who have shown how a single atom can communicate with electrical circuits.

The research demonstrates how a single atom can be manipulated to transfer information to an electrical circuit in a similar way to how voices are transmitted over radio.

The work was carried out by Griffith University's Centre for Quantum Dynamics, in conjunction with the University of Queensland's Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems and the Joint Quantum Institute, USA.

The results, which represent a fundamental advance toward quantum control of macroscopic objects such as computers, could have far-reaching implications for the future of secure communications and code breaking.

"Atom-based quantum communication is guaranteed to be secure by the laws of physics, so the atom-circuit interface can extend this security to electronic devices," Professor Dave Kielpinski, research team leader from the Centre for Quantum Dynamics, said.

He said atoms are excellent for storing, processing, and communicating quantum information.

"They are also excellent sensors for acceleration, gravity, and electrical fields. But working with them requires exotic laser and vacuum technologies. The atom-circuit interface will let us plug atom-based devices into more widespread electronic technology such as computers."

The research has involved the team mathematically modelling a way to transfer information from the atom which operates at a low frequency, to information on a high-frequency electrical circuit.

"This is the first time that the quantum theory of a single atom has been combined with a quantum electrical model," Professor Kielpinski said.

"Quantum mechanics normally manifests itself on a microscopic scale. While well isolated single atoms can readily be controlled on the quantum level, large objects such as computers normally behave classically.

"This work has entailed us devising an interface between the microscopic world of atoms and a macroscopic electrical circuit.

"We have been able to bridge the gap between scientific experimentation and practical technology, to demonstrate how a single atom can communicate with everyday electronic technology such as computers."

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