Diamond makes quantum computing add up

9 March 2010

A team of international scientists developing diamond-based quantum computer technology have announced a significant breakthrough in understanding how to create the basic computing elements. At the heart of the research is extremely pure single crystal diamond developed by E6 Technologies Division, part of Element Six, using its proprietary synthesis technology.

Diamond based quantum computers use electrons to store data bits, and photons (individual packets of light) to read and control the data bits. Diamond has been identified as a promising candidate for solid-state quantum information applications that can operate at room temperature. Competing approaches generally require complex and expensive cryogenic cooling systems.

These latest research results are part of a three-year project called “Engineered Quantum Information in Nanostructured Diamond” or “EQUIND” that started in 2007. Its aim was to establish whether specific optical features identified in diamond could be used as the basic elements for quantum computers and single-photon sources. The project is part of the “FET Open Funding Programme”, aimed at studying the potential of future and emerging technologies that may have an impact on society or industry.

The scientific team, writing in a letter to Nature Physics published today, say that that their latest results demonstrate “all basic elements of a room temperature quantum register.” This means that the team have been able to control and read information as needed for a practical computer and believe that they can scale it up to a register (the basic computing heart of a conventional computer used to store and manipulate information).

Faster computers

This could pave the way for novel computer designs based on quantum mechanics, which govern the behaviour of energy and matter at the atomic scale. If successful, it could lead to significantly faster computers which could be particularly good at cracking complex codes, searching through large databases and working with complex modelling problems. As a consequence of this many national government and military funding agencies are supporting quantum computing research.

Particular features in the diamond lattice called nitrogen-vacancy defects contain the electron which can be used to form the basic computing element. A laser light reads the information they contain. E6 Technologies has developed an ultra-high purity single crystal diamond made by chemical vapour deposition. This CVD diamond gives the team a strong base from which to develop diamond structures with the unique properties demanded by quantum computing.


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