In DepthQuantum Physics

Vibrations used to talk to quantum circuits

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Science  16 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6381, pp. 1202-1203
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6381.1202

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The budding discipline of quantum acoustics could shake up embryonic quantum computers. Such machines run by flipping quantum bits, or qubits, that can be set not only to zero or one, but, bizarrely, to zero and one at the same time. The most advanced qubits are circuits made of superconducting metal, and to control or read out a qubit, researchers make it interact with a microwave resonator—typically a strip of metal on the qubit chip or a finger-size cavity surrounding it—which rings with microwave photons like an organ pipe rings with sound. But some physicists see advantages to replacing the microwave resonator with a mechanical one that rings with quantized vibrations, or phonons. A well-designed acoustic resonator could ring longer than a microwave one does and could be far smaller, enabling researchers to produce more compact technologies. But first scientists must gain quantum control over vibrations. And several groups are on the cusp of doing that, as they reported at a recent meeting.