Researchers take first step to de-freezing quantum computing

The magnets are not made from rare Earth materials but have been found to be 100 times more magnetic than iron.
Ameya Paleja
Stock image representing a new futuristic magnetic material
Image representing a new futuristic magnetic material


A new method of making magnets developed by researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) could help bring quantum computing out of the ultra-freezing temperatures it currently needs to operate. The highly magnetic material developed works at regular temperatures, a press release said.

Quantum computing is the next frontier of computation, potentially allowing for calculations that are impossible for classic computers to even process. As researchers around the world work to optimize the computations with an increasing number of quantum bits or qubits, the biggest hurdle they face is the need for ultra-cool environments to run these computers themselves.

Magnets role in quantum computers

Magnets are ubiquitous in modern-day devices ranging from smartphones to motors of electric vehicles and solid-state drives. They also have a role to play in quantum computing as enablers of the speed of computation.

The drawback, though, is that these magnets need extremely low temperatures to work, and since the magnets cannot be cooled in isolation, the entire computing system needs to be cooled down to nearly absolute zero temperatures, making it difficult to use quantum computers.

Magnets that work at room temperature

A research team led by Ahmed El-Gendy, a professor of physics at UTEP, has been working since 2019 to create a new set of magnetic materials that can work at regular temperatures. After years of trial and error, the team has finally managed to generate a magnet that does so.

Researchers take first step to de-freezing quantum computing
Ahmed Al-Gendy demonstrating magnetic properties of the newly developed material.

Made using amino ferrocene and graphene, the material is extremely magnetic. As per the researcher's calculation, the material is 100 times more magnetic than pure iron. "I was really doubting its magnetism, but our results show clearly superparamagnetic behavior," said El-Gendy in the press release.

An interesting feature of this magnet is that it is not made from rare Earth minerals. "All magnets are currently made from rare Earth materials, and we have a shortage of them,” said El-Gendy. “We’re going to face a problem soon of not having these materials to make magnets for any industry. Imagine if we get to that point."

However, the research is still the first step toward a new future of quantum computing. The team made the material with some difficulty and is now working to optimize the manufacturing process and the effectiveness of the material in the computation process. Additionally, it also needs to collaborate with other researchers working in the field of quantum computing to take this further.

Quantum computing could potentially revolutionize the world by solving complex computations that could help address challenges in the areas of drug discovery as well as climate change. These computers could replace the many supercomputers deployed in different parts of the world.

The work done by UTEP researchers is a major boost to making quantum computers more mainstream as they can be operated more easily. "No one has prepared a material like this before. I think we could go make a quantum computer at room temperature with this," El-Gendy added.

The research findings were published in the journal Applied Physical Letters.


Intensive studies are published for graphene-based molecular magnets due to their remarkable electric, thermal, and mechanical properties. However, to date, most of all produced molecular magnets are ligand based and subject to challenges regarding the stability of the ligand(s). The lack of long-range coupling limits high operating temperature and leads to a short-range magnetic order. Herein, we introduce an aminoferrocene-based graphene system with room temperature superparamagnetic behavior in the long-range magnetic order that exhibits colossal magnetocrystalline anisotropy of 8 × 105 and 3 × 107 J/m3 in aminoferrocene and graphene-based aminoferrocene, respectively. These values are comparable to and even two orders of magnitude larger than pure iron metal. Aminoferrocene [C10H11FeN]+ is synthesized by an electrophilic substitution reaction. It was then reacted with graphene oxide that was prepared by the modified Hammers method. The phase structure and functionalization of surface groups were characterized and confirmed by XRD, FT-IR, and Raman spectroscopy. To model the behavior of the aminoferrocene between two sheets of hydroxylated graphene, we have used density functional theory by placing the aminoferrocene molecule between two highly ordered hydroxylated sheets and allowing the structure to relax. The strong bowing of the isolated graphene sheets suggests that the charge transfer and resulting magnetization could be strongly influenced by pressure effects. In contrast to strategies based on ligands surface attachment, our present work that uses interlayer intercalated aminoferrocene opens routes for future molecular magnets as well as the design of qubit arrays and quantum systems.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board