A new process for creating qubits using flawed diamonds and lasers could lead to quantum computers and impossible-to-hack networks.
As it turns out, the most useful diamonds are the kind that nobody wants, as a new way of manipulating nitrogen atoms inside of flawed diamonds may allow for large scale, room temperature quantum computers.
"Oddly enough, perfection may not be the way to go," said the University of California, Santa Barbara's David Awschalom. "We want to build in defects."
The difference between quantum and normal computing is the number of different states each can utilize. In traditional computing, the smallest form of information is the bit, which can represent either a 1 or a 0, while a qubit, the unit used for quantum computing, can represent a 1, a 0, or both at the same time.
Awschalom's new technique uses diamonds that have been flawed by the inclusion of nitrogen in their carbon matrices. When a nitrogen atom lies next to an empty space in the carbon matrix, it fills it by putting one of its electrons in that spot. By playing with the "spin" of the the nitrogen atom and electron, the pair effectively becomes a stable qubit, capable of lasting much longer at room temperature than other forms of creating qubits, which are often very unstable and require temperatures near absolute zero.
The spins of the particles may be measured and changed with lasers, and can be changed at about the same speed as a traditional computer can write information to a stick of RAM. The qubit only exists for seconds at best, but in the realm of computing, that can be more than enough time to perform some extreme calculations.
Another use of Awschalom's diamond qubits might be using them as quantum repeaters. Currently, quantum networks can be created by "entangling" particles, which then can transmit secure data over several kilometers via quantum encryption. Using chips of diamond in repeaters could significantly extend the range of these networks of impossible-to-decrypt information.
Room temperature quantum computers and unhackable networks might sound a bit far-fetched and futuristic, and that's because they are. Yet here we are, on the verge of their existence.
Isn't living in the future fun?