New Phase of Matter Created in Quantum Computer, Could Act as Long-Term Quantum Information Storage


Beaming a laser pulse sequence based on Fibonacci numbers at atoms inside a quantum computer, physicists have created a previosuly undetected phase of matter. What is fascinating about the phase is that it behaves as if it has two dimensions of time despite having a singular flow of time. The researchers used 10 atomic ions of an element called ytterbium, which are individually held and controlled by electric fields produced by an ion trap. These ions can be manipulated (or measured) using laser pulses. The scientists believe that this would help them in storing information in a more error-free manner. This is likely to pave way for the development of quantum computers that can hold information for a long time without distortion or loss of data.

The physicists behind the discovery did not aim their study at creating a phase with theoretical extra time. Instead, they were interested in making a new phase of matter besides the existing ones like liquid, solid, and gas.

The team set out to build a new phase in the quantum computer called the H1 quantum processor. It consists of 10 ytterbium ions that are precisely controlled by lasers inside a vacuum chamber. In the study, the team explored a special set of phases called topological phases. While moving from one phase to another, the breaking of the physical symmetries appears as the key hallmark. Even creating a new topological phase inside a quantum computer relies on symmetry breaking. However, in the new phase matter, the symmetry was observed to be breaking across time rather than space.

In conducting the experiment, researchers used the Fibonacci sequence in which the next number in the sequence is created by adding the previous two. The Fibonacci pulsing created a time symmetry that was ordered without ever repeating just like a quasicrystal in space.

“The system essentially gets a bonus symmetry from a nonexistent extra time dimension,” said researchers from the Center for Computational Quantum Physics at the Flatiron Institute in New York. The observations have been described in a paper published in Nature.

The team has observed that the new quasiperiodic Fibonacci pulse resulted in a topographic phase that prevented data loss from the system for the entire 5.5 seconds. This meant that they had drummed up a phase that was immune to decoherence for much longer.

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