What Is This

What is this?

What Is This

Shown is an artist’s rendition of a defect found in silicon carbide (SiC) that may prove useful in the budding field of quantum information science. The defect is known as the nitrogen vacancy (NV) center because it is composed of a vacant silicon site next to a nitrogen atom replacing a carbon atom. The defect has recently been identified by researchers at UCSB as a potential candidate for a qubit, which is the basic building block that is needed to build a quantum computer. Quantum mechanics allows many non-intuitive phenomena to occur, such as the superposition of the “on” and “off” of conventional bits used in modern-day computers. A quantum computer would exploit these features to solve certain computational problems with speeds that would be unobtainable with current super-computers. Many previous experiments have shown that a similar defect in diamond (also known as the NV center) can function as a qubit—even at room temperature. As diamond is presently difficult to both grow and process, the identification of another system with similar properties is a promising discovery. The research on SiC did not stop there; it also provided an outline to systematically predict which defects in other systems might have similar quantum features.

CREDIT: “Quantum computing with defects,” J. R. Weber, W. F. Koehl, J. B. Varley, A. Janotti, B. B. Buckley, C. G. Van de Walle, and D. D. Awschalom, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107, 8513 (2010).

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