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Atom Images Raise Quantum Computer Hopes

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Atom distribution in quantum gas

Atom distribution of an ultracold quantum gas held in a two-dimensional crystal of light.

Stefan Kuhr & Immanuel Bloch, Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics

Fast quantum computers made of atoms trapped by beams of light could be a step closer, thanks to the first images of the individual atoms in such a grid.

Quantum computers get their speed from the fact that their components can occupy a range of states rather than just two as in a binary computer. Special algorithms can exploit these quantum states to solve problems that would defeat a conventional computer.

One candidate for such a computer is a so-called optical lattice, in which ultracold atoms are coaxed by strategically placed laser beams into a grid arrangement, rather like eggs in an egg carton. But before we can read and write to these atoms, which will be necessary if the lattice is to act as a quantum computer, their precise positions need to be determined.

From New Scientist
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