Princeton researchers connected silicon qubits using a narrow cavity in a “wire”. It contained a single particle of light, or photon, that picks up the message from one qubit and transmits it to the next qubit.
Above – Researchers at Princeton University have made an important step forward in the quest to build a quantum computer using silicon components, which are prized for their low cost and versatility compared to the hardware in today’s quantum computers. The team showed that a silicon-spin quantum bit (shown in the box) can communicate with another quantum bit located a significant distance away on a computer chip. The feat could enable connections between multiple quantum bits to perform complex calculations.
CREDIT Image by Felix Borjans, Princeton University
The two qubits were located about half a centimeter, or about the length of a grain of rice, apart. To put that in perspective, if each qubit were the size of a house, the qubit would be able to send a message to another qubit located 750 miles away.
The key step forward was finding a way to get the qubits and the photon to speak the same language by tuning all three to vibrate at the same frequency. The team succeeded in tuning both qubits independently of each other while still coupling them to the photon. Previously the device’s architecture permitted coupling of only one qubit to the photon at a time.
“You have to balance the qubit energies on both sides of the chip with the photon energy to make all three elements talk to each other,” said Felix Borjans, a graduate student and first author on the study. “This was the really challenging part of the work.”
Each qubit is composed of a single electron trapped in a tiny chamber called a double quantum dot. Electrons possess a property known as spin, which can point up or down in a manner analogous to a compass needle that points north or south. By zapping the electron with a microwave field, the researchers can flip the spin up or down to assign the qubit a quantum state of 1 or 0.
“This is the first demonstration of entangling electron spins in silicon separated by distances much larger than the devices housing those spins,” said Thaddeus Ladd, senior scientist at HRL Laboratories and a collaborator on the project. “Not too long ago, there was doubt as to whether this was possible, due to the conflicting requirements of coupling spins to microwaves and avoiding the effects of noisy charges moving in silicon-based devices. This is an important proof-of-possibility for silicon qubits because it adds substantial flexibility in how to wire those qubits and how to lay them out geometrically in future silicon-based ‘quantum microchips.'”
Nonlocal qubit interactions are a hallmark of advanced quantum information technologies. The ability to transfer quantum states and generate entanglement over distances much larger than qubit length scales greatly increases connectivity and is an important step towards maximal parallelism and the implementation of two-qubit gates on arbitrary pairs of qubits6. Qubit-coupling schemes based on cavity quantum electrodynamics also offer the possibility of using high-quality-factor resonators as quantum memories. Extending qubit interactions beyond the nearest neighbor is particularly beneficial for spin-based quantum computing architectures, which are limited by short-range exchange interactions. Despite the rapidly maturing device technology for silicon spin qubits experimental progress towards achieving long-range spin–spin coupling has so far been restricted to interactions between individual spins and microwave photons. Here we demonstrate resonant microwave-mediated coupling between two electron spins that are physically separated by more than four millimetres. An enhanced vacuum Rabi splitting is observed when both spins are tuned into resonance with the cavity, indicating a coherent interaction between the two spins and a cavity photon. Our results imply that microwave-frequency photons may be used to generate long-range two-qubit gates between spatially separated spins.