Science: Another Step Forward for Quantum Computing

The Story: 

Scientists at Harvard say that they have discovered a state of matter they call a “quantum spin liquid,” and that it could be key to removing some of the barriers to a scaling-up of quantum computing.


Electrons customarily stabilize as they cool. This means that below a certain temperature they form a solid piece of matter that acts as a magnet. In 1973, physicist Philip W. Anderson speculated about the existence of a state of matter in which this didn’t happen. There would be no stabilizing, so at any temperature the electrons would continue changing (being “liquid” though in a somewhat metaphorical sense). This could, he said, lead to a very entangled quantum state.

Others, developing the thought, have decided that entangled state would be very useful for computations. The same possibility has since been captured in the term “topological qubits.” The problem, though, has been that no one has observed this state of nature. It was just a hypothesis.

Until now. A Harvard-led team of physicists has experimentally documented quantum spin liquids, a result the team discusses in the latest issue of the journal Science.

Strange New Worlds: 

Qubits are the building blocs of quantum computation. They are what “bits” are to the computing with which most people in the industrialized world are now familiar. “Topological qubits” would be achieved by atoms that take programmable shapes to engineer different interactions and entanglements between ultracold atoms.



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