Finns create a nano-refrigerator for quantum computers
The device will help create efficient quantum computers that will many times surpass modern ones in performance.
The next big breakthrough in electronics is likely to be quantum computers, which will increase memory and enable scientists to solve problems that our classical computers cannot cope with. A team of researchers at Aalto University in Finland may have removed one of the obstacles to building a quantum computer by developing a nano-refrigerator.
Information on a conventional computer is stored as a bit, which can be either one or zero. But in quantum computers, a unit of information – a qubit – can simultaneously take on the value of one and zero. Storing information using qubits can exponentially increase the power of a computer system.
However, before quantum computers can become a reality, scientists must reinvent all of their components. Work is underway to develop transistors, reprogrammable chips, data transmission methods, and methods for stabilizing obviously unstable quantum systems. Mikko Mottonen and Quan Yen Tan of Aalto University have made a breakthrough in bringing another common computing component into the quantum world: cooling systems.
Qubits are sensitive to heat: high temperature causes them to constantly switch between different states, which is why they are not initialized for accurate calculations.
Scientists have used the effect of quantum tunneling, in which an electron can pass through a barrier due to the fact that it functions as both a particle and a wave. In their experiment, the scientists gave the electron not enough energy to overcome the 2 nanometer-thick barrier. As a result, the electrons consumed the energy needed to complete the task from the quantum device itself, cooling the system.
To test the principle of the device, Mottonen and Tan did not use real qubits in the experiment, but a superconducting resonator that functions in a similar way. In the future, the researchers plan to switch to working with real quantum bits, set the device to a lower temperature, and speed it up and down.
Research published in the journal Nature Communications…
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