If we're ever going to create the next-gen quantum computers that promise to solve complex and difficult problems at super-fast speeds, first we'll need to a means to manipulate atoms individually. So researchers from Duke and the University of Wisconsin have figured out how to do exactly that. Collaborators from those universities have demonstrated a laser system that can aim and focus tiny bursts of light onto single atoms without affecting other neighboring particles.
One of the more promising approaches to quantum computing – that is, computers that use quantum mechanical phenomena like entanglement to perform operations – is to suspend atoms in electromagnetic fields and use lasers to manipulate their states to carry out computations. But doing so requires a high degree of precision; a laser must be able to focus in on a particular atom without disturbing the states of other atoms in the system.
Using focused micromirrors each just twice the diameter of a human hair, the new system was able to focus in on individual atoms in just a few microseconds, something like 1,000 times faster than other beam manipulators developed for optical switching. Not to mention, the did it without making a mess of the quantum system. Each laser pulse found its target – one of a group of five rubidium-87 atoms – without disturbing its neighbors, which were only about one-tenth of the diameter of a hair away.
Not only did each beam manage to find and manipulate its target, but each was able to manipulate the quantum properties of the atom – more or less demonstrating the key technical abilities needed to build a quantum computer. There's still plenty of work to be done on the scientific side before quantum computing replaces our current silicon computing scheme, but it's both impressive and encouraging to see that the tools that can make it happen are coming along nicely.
The future IS yesterday. If you're not willing to face change, retire and move to a location where technology is minimal so you can feel right at home ;o))
I'm SUPER GEEKED about all the advancements in technology~*!! I honestly wish I were alive 500 years from now to see how far we, as humans, will go~*!! Congrats to all those who make their hobbies a career. It just means that you love your job and will advance at it in any way possible. Keep up the good work~*!!
The atoms were *how* far apart? I don't get that.
This is awesome!!!! I can't wait until I have a quantum desktop that can simulate living organisms!
I'll be teleporting to work in no time.
I love science...
Far out, dude. I once got entangled with an atom and it wouldn't stop copying everything I did. It was so annoying. :)
This science stuff is amazing. It's just astounding how far science can go. Seems the more we learn about the universe, the more we learn we have a lot more to learn. Very cool stuff!
Way to go Duke and UW! With this laser system you could build and manipulate all sorts of cool quantum structures!
A note to Popsci: your readers will not be scared off by units like nanometers- many of us are certified nerds! Feel free to throw in the numbers when you have them.
"one-tenth of the diameter of a hair away" ?????
atoms are much closer than that they are on the order of nanometers apart which is much closer than 1/10 of a human hair!!!!