Scientists Make Artificial Atoms That Can Power Quantum Technology

The new artificial atoms are room temperature stable, leading to new avenues for secure quantum communications.
John Loeffler
University of Oregon

Scientists have created a new kind of artificial atom that is stable at room temperature, opening up new possibilities in secure quantum communications.

Scientists Create Artificial Atoms Using White Graphene

In a new paper in the journal Nano Letter, scientists at the University of Oregon (UO) show how they used white graphene to create artificial atoms that remain stable at room temperature, opening up a new avenue to explore in the development of secure quantum communications and optical quantum computing.


"The big breakthrough is that we've discovered a simple, scalable way to nanofabricate artificial atoms onto a microchip, and that the artificial atoms work in air and at room temperature," said University of Oregon physicist Benjamin Alemán, co-author of the paper and member of UO's Materials Science Institute.

Joshua Ziegler, a doctoral student researcher in Alemán’s lab and the first author on the new paper, took a two-dimensional sheet of hexagonal boron nitride, also known as white graphene because of its color and its graphene-like thickness, and drilled holes into it that were 500 nanometers wide and only four nanometers deep using focused ion beams.

When Ziegler examined the sheet using optical confocal microscopy, he saw tiny spots of light emanating from the drilled holes. Analyzing the spots with special techniques for counting photons, Ziegler found that the spots were emitting a single photon at a time, the lowest possible level. The spots themselves are artificial atoms, sharing many of the properties that real world atoms have, like the emission of single photons.

"Our work provides a source of single photons that could act as carriers of quantum information or as qubits. We've patterned these sources, creating as many as we want, where we want," said Alemán. "We'd like to pattern these single photon emitters into circuits or networks on a microchip so they can talk to each other, or to other existing qubits, like solid-state spins or superconducting circuit qubits."

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