Diamonds, a quantum scientist's best friend Feb 15, 2019
Prof. dr. Milos NESLADEK
Exciting times lie ahead as researchers of the Institute for Material Research IMO-IMOMEC (UHasselt-imec) who were able to create electrically readable ‘qubits’ out of artificial diamonds. Their achievements were published today in Science.
THE TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE
Quantum technology is ‘the’ technology of the future and quantum bits, or qubits, are the essential building stones for these quantum devices. They can process large amounts of information, however, they operate mostly at cryogenic temperatures. The realized qubits from artificial diamond are able to operate at room temperature and are electrically readable. “With this discovery, we have moved one step closer towards high-tech applications”, prof. dr. Milos Nesladek explains. This work, published in Science is a joint collaboration of several academic institutions, University Hasselt and imec in Belgium, University Ulm in Germany, University Vienna in Austria and University of Tsukuba in Japan.
“The quantum bits contain information, just like the bits inside our computers. However, the qubits can process a lot more information compared to the latter. As a result, quantum computers will possess incredible processing capabilities, quantum sensors will be able to do more accurate measurements and analysis, and quantum communication will ensure that information exchange will be much safer through encrypted messages that are practically impossible to decode.”
DIAMONDS ARE THE KEY
Yet, as is the case with most innovative findings, we are not there yet when it comes to actual applications. “Researchers from all over the world are still looking for the best way to produce qubits and to connect them with each other in accordance to the quantum laws. Most qubits that were constructed up until now were made using superconductive electronic circuits. However, these circuits have one major shortcoming: they only operate at cryogenic temperatures (- 273 °C). Our diamond qubits overcome this hurdle as they can function at room temperature, making it much easier to implement them into technological applications.”
IMO-IMOMEC has over 3 decades of expertise when it comes to artificial diamonds. “Diamonds are made up entirely of carbon atoms. In order to create a qubit, we have removed two of these atoms. One we replaced with a nitrogen atom and the other we didn’t replace at all, leaving behind an empty space, a so called vacancy. The combination of Nitrogen and the vacancy form an NV center, the essential quantum information unit – a spin qubit. To fabricate qubits in diamond one has to improve the diamond purity to less than 0.1 parts per billion impurities.”
“Although the road is still long, with this work we have set the first step towards quantum technology. The next roadblock that we need to overcome is finding a way to connect the diamond qubits forming quantum links. A process that is better known as quantum-entanglement. If we achieve this, the possibilities might be endless.”
This research received funding from the Quantum Flagship of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, project ASTERIQS, FWO DIAQUANT SBO project, and QUANTERA project Imagine as well as other national programs in Germany, Japan and Austria.
Discover the scientific article here.