One piece closer to a working electronic quantum computer puzzle kit.

Many believe the next generation of supercomputers will be powered by quantum mechanics. Harnessing the strange properties of photons and electrons in special states is often the backbone for quantum computer research. Some of these seemingly exotic properties have already been demonstrated using photons, but until very recently, were not replicated in solid-state systems by electrons.

A group of European researchers, consisting of institutions from France, Spain and Germany, has published their work with quantum entanglement using electron (Cooper) pairs, quantum dots and carbon nanotubes. Quantum entanglement is a quantum state of matter where two particles, typically photons or electrons, form a matched pair based on their physical qualities such as up or down spin for electrons and polarization for photons. When a pair of these particles becomes entangled, quantum mechanics states that measuring one of the pair will instantly force the unmeasured into a corresponding state, regardless of the distance they have been separated by.

In photonics work, researchers used wave guides and polarization filters to form entangled photons, which can then be separated by a beam splitter and measured individually. But for electrons, the work is far more taxing. Measurements are more easily skewed by background noise and leakage from the components of the test device.

The solid-state device used to confirm electron quantum entanglement is fairly simple in design. A superconducting element is used to form Cooper pairs. The pairs then move down the element towards a carbon nanotube. Occasionally the pair is split by the nanotube and each electron moves towards a separate quantum dot. In this time, one electron’s spin can be measured, which infers the spin of its mate instantaneously. These pairs can either be spin-correlated or anti-spin-correlated (spinning in the same direction or opposite directions), but the measurement of one always reveals the properties of the other.

Quantum entanglement could be very useful in theory, especially for quantum computing in the areas of security and data transmission. Theoretically, data can be transferred over any distance instantly and without any risk of security breech, however, the entangled pair still has to be transferred through physical media at this time.

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