Surprising communication between atoms could improve quantum computing

A dark room with pink-hued lasers reflecting off of mirrors
In their experiments, UW–Madison physicists led by Deniz Yavuz immobilized a group of rubidium atoms by laser-cooling them to just slightly above absolute zero. Then, they shined a laser at rubidium’s excitation wavelength to energize electrons. | Photo provided by Yuvuz Lab

A group of University of Wisconsin­–Madison physicists has identified conditions under which relatively distant atoms communicate with each other in ways that had previously only been seen in atoms closer together — a development that could have applications to quantum computing.

The physicists’ findings, published Oct. 14 in the journal Physical Review A, open up new prospects for generating entangled atoms, the term given to atoms that share information at large distances, which are important for quantum communications and the development of quantum computers.

“Building a quantum computer is very tough, so one approach is that you build smaller modules that can talk to each other,” says Deniz Yavuz, a UW–Madison physics professor and senior author of the study. “This effect we’re seeing could be used to increase the communication between these modules.”

The scenario at hand depends on the interplay between light and the electrons that orbit atoms. An electron that has been hit with a photon of light can be excited to a higher energy state. But electrons loathe excess energy, so they quickly shed it by emitting a photon in a process known as decay. The photons atoms release have less energy than the ones that boosted the electron up — the same phenomenon that causes some chemicals to fluoresce, or some jellyfish to have a green-glowing ring.

“Now, the problem gets very interesting if you have more than one atom,” says Yavuz. “The presence of other atoms modifies the decay of each atom; they talk to each other.”

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New method measures temperature within 3D objects

four infrared images of the fused silica window used

University of Wisconsin–Madison engineers have made it possible to remotely determine the temperature beneath the surface of certain materials using a new technique they call depth thermography. The method may be useful in applications where traditional temperature probes won’t work, like monitoring semiconductor performance or next-generation nuclear reactors.

Many temperature sensors measure thermal radiation, most of which is in the infrared spectrum, coming off the surface of an object. The hotter the object, the more radiation it emits, which is the basis for gadgets like thermal imaging cameras.

Depth thermography, however, goes beyond the surface and works with a certain class of materials that are partially transparent to infrared radiation.

“We can measure the spectrum of thermal radiation emitted from the object and use a sophisticated algorithm to infer the temperature not just on the surface, but also underneath the surface, tens to hundreds of microns in,” says Mikhail Kats, a UW–Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We’re able to do that precisely and accurately, at least in some instances.”

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four infrared images of the fused silica window used
An infrared image of the fused silica window used to test the depth thermography concept. For the project, the team heated the silica, a type of glass, and analyzed it using a spectrometer. They then measured temperature readings from various depths of the sample. IMAGE COURTESY OF MIKHAIL KATS

Measurement of a superconducting qubit with a microwave photon counter

Data image from the paper. It shows rainbow-colored curve lines.


The superconducting qubit group at WQI introduced an approach to measurement based on a microwave photon counter demonstrating raw single-shot measurement fidelity of 92% [Science, 361, 1239 (2018)]. This scheme provides access to the classical outcome of projective quantum measurement at the millikelvin stage and could form the basis for a scalable quantum-to-classical interface, see this article for broader perspective on this technology.

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Effects of charge noise on a pulse-gated singlet-triplet qubit

schematic of a quantum dot qubit and the available electron paths

We study the dynamics of a pulse-gated semiconductor double quantum dot qubit. In our experiments, the qubit coherence times are relatively long, but the visibility of the quantum oscillations is low. We show that these observations are consistent with a theory that incorporates decoherence arising from charge noise that gives rise to detuning fluctuations of the double dot.


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Quasiparticle poisoning of superconducting microwave resonators

graph of Steady-state QP density as a function of bias e V / ?”

Nonequilibrium quasiparticles represent a significant source of decoherence in superconducting quantum circuits. Here we investigate the mechanism of quasiparticle poisoning in devices subjected to local quasiparticle injection.

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