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Choreographing Dance of Electrons Offers Promise in Pursuit of Quantum Computers

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 Princeton electrical engineers

Princeton electrical engineers Stephen Lyon (left) and Alexei Tyryshkin examine the casing that holds the silicon crystal they used to coordinate the spins of billions of electrons in work toward developing quantum computers.

Credit: John Jameson

Princeton University researchers are studying ways to control the spin of electrons, a major step toward developing technology that can be used in quantum computers.

"We are trying to find a different way of doing computing, using additional degrees of freedom involving quantum computing and things like spins," says Princeton's Alexei Tyryshkin.

The researchers, led by professor Stephen Lyon, have developed a method to extend the control over the spins of billions of electrons for up to 10 seconds. Lyon says the key to the method lies in the use of a highly purified sample of silicon, known as silicon -28.

The Princeton researchers are using the magnetic signature of an electron's spin to determine whether or not it is in phase. An electron's spin can be classified as up, down, or in superposition, which is both up and down at the same time.

Superposition is the state that makes the highly complex mathematics in quantum computing possible. Extending the time for controlling superposition in electrons, known as coherence, is an important step toward building a working quantum computer. The key is to maintain coherence long enough for programs to correct and maintain data before the spins lose their coherence.

From Princeton University
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