Physicists Make Major Breakthrough Towards Room Temperature Quantum Computers

H Hannan

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Physicists Make Major Breakthrough Towards Room Temperature Quantum Computers
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Quantum computers have long held the promise of revolutionizing computing by harnessing the strange properties of quantum physics.

But there’s a major catch – they require incredibly cold temperatures close to absolute zero to operate. Now, physicists at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) have achieved a breakthrough in developing a highly magnetic material for quantum computing that functions at room temperature.

Published in Applied Physics Letters, the breakthrough of the new magnet is made from a novel mixture of amino ferrocene and graphene. It demonstrates a magnetism 100 times stronger than pure iron, making it the most magnetic material to work at warm temperatures. This could eliminate the need for expensive cooling systems and enable quantum computers to operate at easily achievable temperatures.

Read more Quantum Computing News Here.

The Power and Limits of Quantum Magnetism

Magnets are a critical component of quantum computers. They are used to initialize quantum bits (qubits), the basic units of quantum information. Strong magnets polarize qubits into the starting states needed to perform quantum calculations.

The magnets used in today’s quantum computers only exhibit their powerful magnetic properties at extremely cold temperatures near absolute zero. This makes operating quantum computers impractical and expensive since elaborate cooling systems are needed to maintain the necessary temperatures.

“In order to make quantum computers work, we cannot use them at room temperature,” said Dr. Ahmed El-Gendy, associate professor of physics at UTEP and lead researcher. “That means we will need to cool the computers and cool all the materials, which is very expensive.”

This breakthrough developing magnetic materials that work at warm temperatures could remove the cooling barrier and unleash the full potential of quantum computing. However, creating strong magnets that retain their properties in warmer environments has proven extremely challenging.

A Novel Material Combination

Since 2019, Dr. El-Gendy’s team has been pursuing unconventional approaches to room-temperature quantum magnets. Rather than using rare earth metals like other magnets, they focused on combining more abundant materials in new ways.

“All magnets are currently made from rare earth materials, and we have a shortage of them,” said Dr. El-Gendy. “We’re going to face a problem soon of not having these materials to make magnets for any industry.”

After attempting many combinations, the team landed on a mixture of the organic compound amino ferrocene and atom-thin sheets of graphene. To their surprise, this novel material demonstrated remarkably strong magnetization at room temperature.

“I was really doubting its magnetism, but our results show clearly superparamagnetic behaviour,” noted Dr. El-Gendy. “No one has prepared a material like this before. I think we could go make a quantum computer at room temperature with this.”

The magnet’s properties exceed any previous room-temperature magnets. It could enable a new generation of quantum computers that don’t require elaborate cooling.

Optimizing a Breakthrough Material

There is still much work ahead to optimize the new magnet for practical use. The initial material was challenging to synthesize, so improving the fabrication process is a priority. The research team also aims to further enhance the magnetic properties.

Nonetheless, the UTEP breakthrough provides a promising proof of concept that room-temperature quantum magnets are possible. It could open new avenues to making quantum computing more scalable and affordable.

Dr. El-Gendy noted they are seeking collaborators experienced in building quantum technologies to help develop applications. The magnets could also find uses beyond quantum computing, such as magnetic storage or medical imaging.

“I think this is going to take the whole field into a new direction,” said Dr. El-Gendy.

The Bigger Picture: Enabling Quantum at Scale

While quantum computers already exist, they remain limited to research labs due to the cooling challenge and other technical obstacles. Quantum computing has yet to reach the scale and reliability required for practical use.

But progress is accelerating, with governments and corporations racing to overcome the barriers through massive investments in quantum technology. If revolutionary room-temperature materials like the new UTEP magnet can be realized, it could help quantum computing finally fulfil its nearly endless potential.

From drug discovery to climate modelling to machine learning, quantum promises to tackle computational problems beyond the reach of classical supercomputers. With each advance like the UTEP breakthrough, the quantum era inches closer towards becoming practical and mainstream.

More information: Yohannes W. Getahun et al, Room temperature colossal superparamagnetic order in aminoferrocene–graphene molecular magnets, Applied Physics Letters (2023). DOI: 10.1063/5.0153212

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