By John Toon
Researchers worldwide are working on quantum computers, a new type of computational device that could tackle specialized problems such as integer factorization or big data analysis much faster than conventional digital computers. Quantum computers will use one of a number of possible approaches to create quantum bits — units known as qubits — to compute and store data, giving them unique advantages over computers based on traditional transistors.
Despite the great potential, however, quantum computing faces many challenges, including controlling the qubits and isolating them from noisy environments. Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are helping address those challenges by designing, fabricating, and testing new components and devices aimed at supporting international quantum computing efforts.
GTRI’s Quantum Systems Division (QSD) uses individual trapped atomic ions as qubits in its research. In collaboration with university and industry partners, QSD scientists recently demonstrated two new ion traps, including one that uses a system of integrated mirrors to read data from multiple ions. The researchers also advanced concepts for integrating the electronic systems needed to control the ion traps inside the vacuum containers within which the traps operate. The research was sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) through the Army Research Office (ARO) and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR).
“We have a wide interest in developing the technologies needed by the field and using those technologies to perform the science needed to make advancements in quantum computing,” said Alexa Harter, chief scientist and associate director of GTRI’s Advanced Concepts Laboratory. “These are all projects that move us farther along the path of integration and technology development.”
QSD has designed more than a dozen micro-fabricated ion traps, each with special properties, many of them intended to work with other devices also designed by the group. The planar ion traps are based on silicon VLSI [very-large-scale integration] technology and are both fabricated and tested at GTRI. The ion traps and other quantum components are shared with collaborators in the community.