German scientists have developed a superconducting ring-circuit that enables storing information into atoms

New component in quantum electronics toolbox

German physicists have created a new electronic component that can serve as an interface between atoms and superconductors.

The results of the research conducted at the University of Tuebingen, Germany, will be published in the next issue of the Nature Communications journal.

The complex superconducting ring-circuit developed by physics PhD students Helge Hattermann and Daniel Bothner enabling stable storage of atoms, might open new possibilities for future quantum electronics components.

“This result paves the way for new quantum electronic components for information processing systems,” said József Fortágh, Professor at the Institute of Physics at the Tübingen University.  

The device makes it possible to interlink conventional superconducting circuits structured on microchips with atom-based storage of quantum information.

Currently, the technology, despite being capable of processing the quantum information fairly quickly, is not able to store it for a long enough period of time. On the other hand, atoms – in essence nature’s smallest electric circuits - could serve as a natural quantum storage unit.

“In the future, this combination will allow us to transfer information from superconducting circuits into ensembles of atoms and store it,” Fortágh said.

In the experiment, rubidium atoms were trapped in a magnetic field above the surface of the microchip. Because superconductors allow an electric current to flow without resistance, the current does not become weaker in the superconducting ring.

Using atomic clock integrated into the superconducting chip, the scientists managed to measure precisely how long the atoms remain in the quantum superposition state. Compared to all previously tested solid-state quantum storage devices which retained the information at best for a couple of milliseconds, the new atom-based device was able to store it for several seconds.

The coherence of quantum systems is the foundation upon which hardware for future information technologies is based. Quantum information is carried by units called quantum bits, or qubits. They can be used to secure electronic communications – and they enable very fast searches of databases.

The researchers’ long-term goal is to process, transfer and store superposition states such as the overlapping of the binary digits zero and one. The team is now planning experiments on atoms in superconducting microwave resonators – which could serve as a shuttle for data between integrated circuits and atoms.

This research is sponsored by the German Research Foundation and the European Research Council.

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