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A Look into the Future of Quantum Computing

March 13, 2013

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Discoveries by physicists and materials scientists at the University of Maryland and other leading institutions have the world on the verge of a new technological revolution in which the strange and unique properties of quantum physics become relevant and exploitable in the context of information science and technology.

Photograph of a surface trap that was fabricated by Sandia National Labs and used to trap ions at the University of Maryland-based Joint Quantum Institute JQI and at Duke.Recently, Science Magazine invited UMD Physics Professor Chris Monroe and Duke Professor Jungsang Kim to speculate on a pivotal research area in advancing this new age: the use of ion trap technology as a scalable option for quantum computing. Their article is highlighted on the cover of the March 8, 2013 issue with an image (right) that portrays a photograph of a surface trap that was fabricated by Sandia National Labs and used to trap ions at the University of Maryland-based Joint Quantum Institute JQI and at Duke.

Quantum computing promises to revolutionize the way that we do certain tasks, such as encrypting secret information and searching databases. The ion trap approach to this technology has historically led the field, with Monroe as a major player. His research group has five laboratories and focuses on using atomic qubits (information carriers) to do basic physics research and to develop scalable quantum computers.  In 2009, Monroe led a research team that for the first time successfully teleported information between two separate atoms in unconnected enclosures a meter apart - a significant milestone in the global quest for practical quantum information processing.

JQI is a research partnership between the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Maryland Physics Department, with support from the Laboratory for Physical Sciences. Research at JQI covers all aspects of quantum computing research, from developing and testing hardware that may make up future devices to world-class theoreticians who hope to harness exotic particles for quantum computing. The strength that this institute offers is an interdisciplinary approach, which allows for cutting edge research to meet real-world applications.

The co-authors, Monroe and Kim are part of a larger collaboration called MUSIQC, which stands for Modular Universal Scalable Ion-trap Quantum Computer, and is supported by the Intelligence Advance Research Projects Activity (IARPA). This program focuses on building the components necessary for a practical quantum computer. The effort involves national labs, universities, and even private small businesses.

About the image
Trapped atomic ions are a promising architecture that satisfies many of the critical requirements for constructing a quantum computer. Ion traps themselves were invented more than a half-century ago, but researchers have implemented new technologies in order to execute quantum operations. Professionally micro-fabricated devices, like the one shown on the cover, resemble traditional computer components. Although quantum logic operations in such chip traps remain elusive, the obstacles are not prohibitive. In the US, researchers at institutions such as NIST (Boulder), Sandia National Labs, Georgia Tech Research Institute, JQI, Duke, MIT, and others are now, often collaboratively, fabricating and testing these technologies. (Permissions/Credit: JQI)

"Scaling the Ion Trap Quantum Processor," C. Monroe and J. Kim, Science, March 8, 2013

This news item was written by E. Edwards at JQI and edited for UMD Right Now. For more detailed information visit jqi.umd.edu.