AAAS: Martinis & Freedman discuss Quantum computing at AAAS kick-off

March 1, 2012

"John Martinis and his colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), have been trying to forge qubits from superconducting circuits. In a superconductor, electrons do not travel solo. Instead, for complicated quantum-mechanical reasons, they pair up (for the same reasons, the pairs feel no electrical resistance). When they do so, the pairs start behaving like a single particle, superposing proclivities and all. This superparticle can, for instance, in effect be moving in two directions at once. As electrons move, they create a magnetic field. Make a closed loop of superconducting wire, then, and you get a magnetic field which can be facing up and down at the same time. You have yourself a superconducting qubit—or five, the number Dr Martinis has so far managed to entangle.

Michael Freedman is trying to address this problem by taking a different tack. Together with his colleagues at Microsoft’s Station Q research centre, also at UCSB, he is trying to build what he calls a topological quantum computer. This uses a superconductor on top of a layer of an exotic material called indium antimony. When a voltage is applied to this sandwich, the whole lot becomes a quantum system capable of existing in superposed states.

Where Dr Freedman’s qubits differ from Dr Martinis’s is in the way they react to interference. Nudge any electron in a superconducting circuit and the whole lot decoheres. Dr Freedman’s design, however, is invulnerable to such local disruptions thanks to the peculiar way in which energy is distributed throughout indium antimony. The Microsoft team has yet to create a functioning qubit, but hopes to do so soon, and is searching for other materials in which to repeat the same trick." READ MORE (The Economist)