A team of physicists at Harvard have created room-temperature quantum bits that can store data for almost two seconds. Quantum bits, or qubits, are the building blocks of quantum computing and physicists have long been working to create ones that exist in a sold-state system at room temperature. Most existing systems use complex equipment that tries to trap single atoms or electrons in a vacuum, which is then cooled close to absolute zero. However, the Harvard team led by physics professor Mikhail Lukin, says it has cracked the problem by using diamonds. The team took advantage of a pair of impurities in ultra-pure, lab-grown diamonds to create quantum bits that could store information for almost two seconds. The work, published in Science, paves the way towards the construction of a functional quantum computer.
Lukin explained: “What we’ve been able to achieve in terms of control is quite unprecedented. We have a qubit at room temperature that we can measure with very high efficiency and fidelity. We can encode data in it, and we can store it for a relatively long time. We believe this work is limited only by technical issues, so it looks feasible to increase the life span into the range of hours. At that point, a host of real-world applications become possible.”
Lukin imagines such a system could be used in applications such as “quantum cash”, a payment system for bank transactions and credit cards that relies on the coding of quantum bits to thwart counterfeiters, and quantum networks — a highly secure communications method that uses quantum bits to transmit data.