Tapping into magnets to clamp down on noise in quantum information

Argonne National Laboratory

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recently funded both DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (UIUC) in a new project related to quantum information science. The Argonne team will bring to the project its expertise in coupling superconducting and magnetic systems. The UIUC team will contribute its world-class capabilities for developing new magnetic materials for quantum systems.

“Quantum information science promises new and different ways in which scientists can process and manipulate information for sensing, data transfer and computing,” said Valentine Novosad, a senior scientist in Argonne’s Materials Science division. ​“UIUC is a perfect partner for us to realize breakthrough discoveries in this area.”

In the emerging field of quantum information science, microwaves may play a fundamental role because their physical properties enable them to provide desired quantum functionality at temperatures near to absolute zero (minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit) — a necessity because heat creates errors in quantum operations. However, microwaves are susceptible to noise, which is unwanted energy that disturbs signal and data transmission.

The research team will be exploring whether magnons could partner with  microwave photons to ensure that microwaves can only travel in one direction, thereby essentially eliminating noise. Magnons are the fundamental excitations of magnets. By contrast, microwave photons result from electronic excitations producing waves like those in a microwave oven.

The Argonne scientists will build upon their earlier efforts to create a superconducting circuit integrated with magnetic elements. The magnons and photons talk to each other through this superconducting device. Superconductivity — the complete absence of electrical resistance — allows coupling of magnons and microwave photons at near to absolute zero.

Read more