Harnessing Atomic Breath for the Future of Quantum Technology

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A New Observation: Atomic Breath in Quantum Research

The researchers from the University of Washington have made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of quantum technology. They observed a unique phenomenon referred to as atomic ‘breathing’, which is essentially the mechanical vibration occurring between two layers of atoms. This was detected by the light emitted from the atoms when they were excited by laser stimulation. The sound produced by this atomic ‘breathing’ shows potential for encoding and transmitting quantum information, marking a promising step forward for the development of quantum technologies.

Quantum Technologies: A New Building Block for the Future

The team of researchers went a step further and developed a unique device that could potentially serve as a new foundational block for quantum technologies. Quantum technologies are forecasted to hold many future applications in a variety of fields such as computing, communication, and sensor development. These findings were published in the esteemed Nature Nanotechnology on June 1.

A Platform for Optomechanics and Quantum Effect Utilization

The team describes their creation as a new, atomic-scale platform using optomechanics, where light and mechanical motions are intrinsically intertwined. Mo Li, the senior author of the study and a professor at the University of Washington, explains that this new type of platform provides a quantum effect that can be utilized to control single photons running through integrated optical circuits for many applications.

Exciton Quasiparticles and Quantum Information Transmission

Previously, the research team had been studying a quantum-level quasiparticle known as an ‘exciton’. Information can be encoded into an exciton and then released in the form of a photon—a minuscule energy particle considered the quantum unit of light. The quantum properties of each emitted photon—like its polarization, wavelength, and/or emission timing—can function as a quantum bit of information, or “qubit,” for quantum computing and communication. The speed of information transmission is accelerated due to the photon carrying the qubit at light speed.

The Role of Phonons in Quantum Technology

An unexpected discovery was made when the researchers realized that the tungsten diselenide atoms were emitting another type of quasiparticle known as a phonon. Phonons are produced from atomic vibrations, analogous to breathing. This is the first time phonons have been observed in a single photon emitter in this type of two-dimensional atomic system. When observing the spectrum of the emitted light, they noticed several equally spaced peaks, indicating that every photon emitted by an exciton was coupled with one or more phonons.

Towards Quantum Circuitry: The Next Step in Quantum Technology

In their future plans, the team aims to build a waveguide—a system that captures single photon emissions and directs them where needed—and then scale up the system. Instead of controlling only one quantum emitter at a time, the goal is to manage multiple emitters and their associated phonon states, facilitating a form of communication between the quantum emitters. This is a key step towards building a solid base for quantum circuitry.

Quantum Emitters for Quantum Computing and Quantum Sensing

The team’s ultimate goal is to create an integrated system with quantum emitters that can employ single photons moving through optical circuits, as well as the newly discovered phonons, to facilitate quantum computing and quantum sensing. This significant advancement will greatly contribute to that effort, and further promote the development of quantum computing, which will have myriad applications in the future.

Quantum Phonons: A New Actor in the Quantum Playground

The discovery of phonons in the context of quantum technology has opened a new field of study. As the researchers have illustrated, phonons are a product of atomic vibration and can be observed in a two-dimensional atomic system. When an electron is knocked from the nucleus, it leaves a positively charged hole, and the electron itself carries a negative charge.

This interaction between positive and negative charges forms an exciton quasiparticle, which, when it returns to its original state, emits a photon. This process not only involves the conversion of matter to energy, but also a mechanical vibration that generates phonons. Phonons can offer a new way to store and manipulate quantum information and are expected to be a powerful tool for future quantum technologies.

Quantum Emitters: A Step Towards Efficient Quantum Communication

Quantum emitters are a critical component for quantum technologies based on light and optics. By placing two thin layers of tungsten and selenium atoms on top of each other, the researchers were able to create a single photon emitter, or “quantum emitter.” This is a significant advancement for quantum communication as it enables the transmission of qubits at the speed of light. Furthermore, the ability to control the quantum emitter and their associated phonon states will facilitate the communication between quantum emitters, an essential feature for building quantum circuitry.

Future of Quantum Computing: The Role of Integrated Systems

In the pursuit of efficient quantum computing, the development of an integrated system is crucial. Such a system would utilize quantum emitters, single photons running through optical circuits, and the newly discovered phonons to facilitate quantum computing and sensing. Quantum computing promises to revolutionize numerous fields by providing exponential computational power. The integrated system, once fully developed, will certainly contribute to this revolution and has the potential to open doors for numerous applications in various fields, from cryptography to complex problem-solving.

Read Original Article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41565-023-01410-6

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