University of Chicago researchers recently published two papers describing technologies that can exploit quantum mechanics to perform tasks such as nanoscale temperature measurement and processing quantum information with lasers. The papers are based on the manipulation of an atomic-scale defect in diamonds known as the nitrogen vacancy center. “In recent years, the research focus has broadened as we’ve come to appreciate that these same principles could enable a new generation of nanoscale sensors,” says Chicago professor David Awschalom. In one paper, the researchers describe a technique that offers new routes toward the development of quantum computers. The method involves developing protocols to fully control the quantum state of the defect with light instead of electronics. The quantum state of interest in this defect is its electronic spin, which acts as a quantum bit. The researchers say this technique shows promise as a more scalable approach to qubit control. The researchers also have developed a quantum thermometer application, which could lead to a multifunctional probe based on quantum physics. “Perhaps most importantly, since the sensor is an atomic-scale defect that could be contained within nanometer-scale particles of diamond, you can imagine using this system as a thermometer in challenging environments such as living cells or microfluidic circuits,” Awschalom says.
More info: UChicago News (IL) (06/04/13) Steve Koppes