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A simpler design for quantum computers

Portraits of Ben Bartlett and Shanhui Fan

Stanford Elecrtical Engineering professor and Applied Physics professor, by courtesy, Shanhui Fan, and graduate student Ben Bartlett proposed a simpler design for quantum computers:  A relatively simple quantum computer design that uses a single atom to manipulate photons and could be constructed with currently available components.


Today’s quantum computers are complicated to build, difficult to scale up, and require temperatures colder than interstellar space to operate. These challenges have led researchers to explore the possibility of building quantum computers that work using photons — particles of light. Photons can easily carry information from one place to another, and photonic quantum computers can operate at room temperature, so this approach is promising. However, although people have successfully created individual quantum “logic gates” for photons, it’s challenging to construct large numbers of gates and connect them in a reliable fashion to perform complex calculations.

Stanford graduate student Ben Bartlett and Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering, have proposed a simpler design for photonic quantum computers using readily available components. (Image credit: Courtesy Ben Bartlett / Rod Searcey)

Now, Stanford University researchers have proposed a simpler design for photonic quantum computers using readily available components, according to a paper published Nov. 29 in Optica. Their proposed design uses a laser to manipulate a single atom that, in turn, can modify the state of the photons via a phenomenon called “quantum teleportation.” The atom can be reset and reused for many quantum gates, eliminating the need to build multiple distinct physical gates, vastly reducing the complexity of building a quantum computer.