July 10, 2012
Scientists devoted to developing a quantum computer must first build an effective qubit, or quantum bit, that can be both controlled and measured. Now, a group of experts from Harvard University are one step closer after developing a diamond quantum bit that can hold traces of data at room temperature for nearly two seconds.
According to the news source, the scientists recently overcame major obstacles that were once hindrances to transforming lab-grown diamonds into these quantum bits. Though it may sound short, the two-second time frame is a laudable achievement, as it is close to an eternity in the quantum world. The increase was measured to be six orders of magnitude greater than the duration of previous systems that have been developed.
"What we've been able to achieve in terms of control is quite unprecedented," said professor of physics Mikhail Lukin. "We have a qubit, at room temperature, that we can measure with very high efficiency and fidelity. We can encode data in it, and we can store it for a relatively long time. We believe this work is limited only by technical issues, so it looks feasible to increase the lifespan into the range of hours. At that point, a host of real-world applications become possible."
Lukin added that he believes the system could be used as a practical quantum computer and much more. The system, he says, could be used for "quantum cash," which he describes as a payment system in which bank transactions and credit cards could use coded quantum bits to keep counterfeiters at bay. The technology could also lead to quantum networks, or highly secure communications that would use quantum bits to transfer data.
"This research is an important step forward in research toward one day building a practical quantum computer," said Georg Kucsko, a student working with Lukin who performed the engineering research and helped pen the report. "For the first time, we have a system that has a reasonable timescale for memory and simplicity, so this is now something we can pursue."
According to Popular Science, the researchers were able to transform a diamond's characteristics that were previously an obstacle into an advantage. By identifying carbon-13 as an impurity in the home-grown diamond, the scientists were able to develop a diamond that was 99.99 percent carbon-12, eliminating the impurity.