Oz boffins cook quantum computing out of mothballs

Burned naphthalene hosts room-temperature qubits

A bottle of burned naphtalene
A bottle of qubits. Image, Mohammad Choucair et al, Nature

A Sydney University researcher has burned naphthalene to create a material that can hold quantum qubit information at room temperatures.

While the world has both quantum storage and quantum gates, albeit at small scales, even performing a simple Boolean AND operation on qubits is best undertaken as close as you can get to 0 Kelvin.

Working at room temperature is much easier for everyone but it's hard to preserve quantum characteristics in the presence of so much thermal noise.

That's what the Sydney University team, led by research fellow Dr Mohammad Choucair, say they've achieved in this paper in Nature.

What they've found is that by burning the hydrocarbon Naphthalene – C10H8 – they get a residue containing “metallic-like carbon nanospheres”.

Those nanospheres, the paper says, have “conduction electron spin–lattice and spin–spin relaxation times of 175 ns” – which isn't very long, but as Dr Choucair explains at The Conversation, that's a perfectly usable lifetime for quantum computing.

He writes that the time “exceeds the prerequisite for applications in quantum computing and is about 100 times longer than that found in graphene”.

Spin states aren't the only quantum state that can be used as a qubit, but if they can be handled at room temperature at scale, they could quickly become a default for researchers.

As well as being easy to fabricate, the nanospheres are also relatively easy to deposit onto a substrate, Dr Choucair, and the spin states on the nanospheres can be manipulated with an oscillating magnetic field. ®

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