The University of Southampton

Developing atom chip devices to bring quantum computing closer

Published: 
15 March 2007
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A grant awarded this month could develop atom chip devices which could bring quantum computing closer to a reality.

Dr Michael Kraft at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS) and Professor Edward Hinds at Imperial College, London, have been awarded a £1.2 million Basic Technology Translation Grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop atom chip devices.

Their task is to take the toolbox of basic atom chip building blocks which they have developed over the past four years and integrate them on a single chip so that they can be developed into systems robust enough to perform useful functions.

The researchers have found that atom chips have potential uses in a variety of futuristic technologies. For example: sensors with unprecedented accuracy and sensitivity; quantum computing, which harnesses physical phenomenon unique to quantum mechanics to realise a new mode of information processing, and atom interferometers, instruments that exploit the wave characters of atoms.

Specific atom chip devices to be explored in this new research include atomic clocks, accelerometers, interferometers, magnetometers, single photon sources, quantum information processors and molecule traps.

‘Over the past four years, we have done the fundamental research into atom chips,’ said Dr Kraft. ‘Now it’s time to make application-orientated devices.’

According to Dr Kraft, although other international research groups have worked on atom chips, there are not yet any atom chip devices. He believes that this is a development which will be of benefit to industry and the wider community in the longer term.

‘There is a growing need for unprecedented accuracy in accelerometers and gyroscopes,’ he said. ‘Quantum information processors are potentially leading to quantum computers and atom chip devices will facilitate this process.’

The research which begins this month for a four-year period is a natural sequel to the Basic Technology Atom Chips project, on which Dr Kraft and Professor Hinds worked for the past four years, and it is the necessary step to allow the new basic technology to make contact with the commercial world.

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