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MEMS shown to enable quantum computing

December 13, 2010 // Jean-Pierre Joosting

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) moved closer to enabling quantum computing with university researchers demonstrating that micro-mirrors can read and write qubits encoded on clouds of ultra-cold atoms suspended in a transparent media.

Semiconductor memories today need bit-lines to address them before reading or writing, but according to Duke University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, qubits can be likewise addressed with two lasers focused on them by MEMS micro-mirrors.

In the demonstration setup, clouds of five rubidium-87 atoms were spaced at 8.7 micron intervals and addressed by two lasers which independently targeted their location, potentially allowing qubits to be written and read out by lasers. The current experimental setup merely proved the concept, but future quantum computers could use a transparent media to store qubits close enough to each other that their interactions could perform ultra-complex calculations that are intractable today—such as cracking long encryption codes.

Ultracold cloud of atoms used to store quantum qubits in the laboratory of Mark Saffman's group at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

An access time of about five microseconds, to switch between qubits, was reported by the researchers to be about 1,000-times faster than today's micro-mirrors used in optical switches. Next the group plans to construct what they believe will become the basic building block for future quantum computers--two-qubit gates confined in planar two-dimensional arrays.

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