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In the Spin Zone: IBM Researchers Take Big Step Toward Quantum Computing

Researchers have mapped the spin of electrons in a semiconductor for the first time, marking a big step forward in the march toward quantum computing. By synchronizing the subatomic particles, researchers were able to extend their spin lifetimes to just over 1 nanosecond. That’s about the same time an existing computer processor takes to cycle, and offers proof of concept that quantum-based processors can remain stable long enough to encode information, according to a study published online this week in the journal Nature Physics.

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The study reinforces the long held, but until now never demonstrated, idea that the spin of electrons can be used to replace the on-off pattern in binary systems. By using quantum spin, engineers could create a new generation of processors achieving speeds that are flights of fantasy right now. And while those processors are still a long way off, these experiments by IBM and researchers at the university ETH Zurich mark a major step toward their viability. “This control and ability to manipulate and observe the spin is an important step in the development of spin-based transistors that are electrically programmable,” said IBM researcher Dr. Gian Salis in a statement.

Researchers created thousands of electrons, which would normally spin in random directions. Using laser pulses, they herded the electrons into creating a consistent spin helix that could conceivably be used to record bytes of information. The process has been theorized for nearly a decade, and some previous papers have hinted that it was possible, but this is the first experiment to observe the phenomenon directly.

(via ZDNet)

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