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'ultracold' Molecules Promising For Quantum Computing, Simulation

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A rendering of ultracold polar molecules.

Researchers at Purdue University say they are the first to use the photoassociation method of cooling atoms with lasers on the alkali metals lithium and rubidium.

Credit: Greg Kuebler

Purdue University researchers say they have developed a method of using lasers to cool atoms nearly to absolute zero and then gluing them together, a process that could be applied to quantum computing, precise sensors, and advanced simulations.

The method, known as photoassociation, is performed inside of a magneto-optical trap, a system that uses a vacuum chamber, magnetic coils, and a series of lasers to cool and trap the atoms.

"In ultracold chemistry, molecules are really moving slowly so they have a long time to interact with each other," says Purdue professor Daniel S. Elliot.

Although other researchers have used the method to create cold molecules out of atoms of other alkali metals, the Purdue researchers say they are the first to do it with the alkali metals lithium and rubidium.

Photoassociation occurs when two atoms are merged using lasers to induce a chemical bond between them, forming a molecule. Elliot says the lithium-rubidium molecule could be ideal for quantum computing, among other applications, because it has a significant dipole moment, which could enable them to be used as quantum bits. "In quantum computing, the larger the dipole moment the stronger the interaction would be between molecules, and you need that interaction," he says.

From Purdue University News
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