Jan 312011

Bloch sphere, a geometrical representation of ...

The superfast computers of tomorrow will likely be able to manipulate individual electrons, harnessing their charge and magnetism to achieve massive data storage and outstanding processing speeds at very low power requirements.

But how exactly do you go about manipulating single electrons independently, without affecting the ones nearby? Princeton University‘s Jason Petta has recently demonstrated a way to do just that in a breakthrough for the field of spintronics that brings faster and low-power number-crunching closer to reality.

Qubits, or “quantum bits,” are the analogue of a classical bit in quantum computing. They possess some unique properties, such being able to assume multiple values (“0” and “1”) at the same time, and they can also be represented by a single subatomic particle, which truly opens up new horizons as far as miniaturization is concerned.

In previous experiments, researchers would usually resort to using microwave radiation to manipulate a very large number of electrons that, taken together, form a single quantum bit. Doing so can, however, impair performance, as we’ve seen in some of the early prototypes of spintronics processors we’ve covered at Gizmag. Perhaps even more importantly, being able to manipulate individual electrons rather than large groups of them would have very dramatic effects in terms of power consumption, and effectively could one day boost the battery life of portable electronics in ways that are hard to even conceive.

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