Quantum Computing Comes Closer With This Discovery

Graduate Center researchers made a breakthrough in controlling the emission of photons, the basic units of information in a quantum device. 

In a quantum computing future, the curious nature of quantum mechanics will allow computers to run faster and solve more complex problems than ever before. Researchers hope that these machines will advance research in cryptography and imaging and be able to model advanced chemical processes to develop new pharmaceuticals.
To get to there, scientists first need to be able to manipulate quantum bits, or “qubits.” These are the most basic units of information; the quantum version of the 1s and 0s that today’s computers use to store data. Some methods use photons — particles of light — as qubits. In this case, a quantum device needs a material that can give off single photons from exactly the right spots and at the right time.
“The single photon emitter is the central building block for quantum information processing using light,” says Professor Vinod M. Menon (GC/CCNY, Physics).
Now, CUNY researchers, including Menon and Professor Carlos A. Meriles (GC/CCNY, Physics), have demonstrated a material that can emit photons from precise locations, on demand, and at room temperature. These qualities make the material better suited for commercialization.
Their paper appears in the journal Optica.
“This is the first time this has been shown for this type of emitter system,” says Graduate Center Ph.D. student Nicholas Proscia (Physics), lead author on the paper.
Previously, scientists have only attained one of these properties at a time. “Prior work has either shown materials at room temperature in which the photons are emitted from random locations,” Menon says, “or materials that have deterministic photon placement but work at cryogenic temperatures.”
The physicists used a single-atom thick material called hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). Bending hBN at very precise locations activates the material, causing it to emit photons at those spots. This method, the researchers say, is highly scalable. This means it could someday be used in quantum devices made on an industrial level.
“The fact that hBN is a 2D material means it can be deposited on any structure,” Meriles says, “and operating at room temperature is highly desirable in the quest for practical devices.”
“This is extremely exciting because our findings open the door for use of these emitters in larger, more complex systems that are required in quantum computing,” Proscia says.
CCNY post-doctoral researchers Zav Shotan and Harishankar Jayakumar, and undergraduate students Charles Cohen and Michael Dollar are also authors on the study. Other collaborators include the Australian National University and the Center for Physical Science and Technology in Lithuania.

Submitted on: DEC 7, 2018

Category: Faculty | General GC News | Physics | Student News