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How Toy Street Lamps Are Shedding New Light on Quantum Computing

By IDG News Service

May 16, 2016

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The bulbs from toy street lamps, among other things, are helping to reveal new insights into quantum computing.

Researchers at the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and Yale University captured electrons from the tungsten filament of a miniature toy light bulb by coaxing them to float above the surface of superfluid helium at 1/100th of a degree above absolute zero. When the bulb heats up, electrons "boil" off and fly onto the surface of the helium, and the University of Chicago's Gerwin Koolstra says, "we can trap the electrons and hold them for basically as long as we want." The researchers say their ultimate goal is to build a trap that holds a single electron for use as a quantum bit (qubit).

Meanwhile, a separate research team at the University of Chicago and Argonne used supercomputers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to determine the application of strain to aluminum nitride can induce structural defects similar to those in diamonds, which can be harnessed to create qubits. A third project conducted by the universities of Bristol and Western Australia involved development of a method for efficiently modeling "quantum walk" physics that are observable with a primitive quantum computer, according to Bristol lecturer Jonathan Matthews. He thinks more refined quantum computer designs and a new class of quantum algorithms could stem from this discovery.

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