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Nist Adds to Quantum Computing Toolkit With Mixed-Atom Logic Operations

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The ion trap used in U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology quantum computing experiments demonstrating logic operations with two different types of ions.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have added to their collection of ingredients for future quantum computers by performing logic operationsbasic computing stepswith two atoms of different elements.

Credit: Blakestad/NIST

U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers performed logic operations with two atoms of different elements, a breakthrough they say could be applied to future quantum computers.

The researchers manipulated a magnesium and a beryllium ion confined in a custom trap, and used two sets of laser beams to entangle the ions and perform two logic operations: a controlled NOT (CNOT) gate and a SWAP gate.

In the experiment, quantum bits (qubits) are based on the ions' spin direction, and a CNOT gate flips the second qubit if the first qubit is a 1; if it is a 0, the target bit is uncharged. If the control qubit is in a superposition, the ions become entangled. A SWAP gate interchanges the qubit states, including superpositions. The two types of ions have different responses to light, so lasers can be designed to manipulate one without disturbing the other, minimizing interference. The researchers developed a technique to track and stabilize the laser beam phases.

The researchers note their techniques could provide a "universal" set of quantum gates, which is one of the DiVencenzo criteria, a set of circumstances describing the elements needed to build a practical quantum computer.

From NIST News
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