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    • 2016-05-02 00:00:02
    • Article ID: 652643

    Could Aluminum Nitride Be Engineered to Produce Quantum Bits?

    After running simulations at NERSC researchers believe it's possible

    • Credit: H.Seo, M.Govoni and G.Galli, University of Chicago.

      This graphic illustrates an engineered nitrogen vacancy in aluminum nitride.

    Quantum computers have the potential to break common cryptography techniques, search huge datasets and simulate quantum systems in a fraction of the time it would take today’s computers. But before this can happen, engineers need to be able to harness the properties of quantum bits or qubits.

    Currently, one of the leading methods for creating qubits in materials involves exploiting the structural atomic defects in diamond. But several researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory believe that if an analogue defect could be engineered into a less expensive material, the cost of manufacturing quantum technologies could be significantly reduced. Using supercomputers at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), which is located at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), these researchers have identified a possible candidate in aluminum nitride. Their findings were published in Nature Scientific Reports.

    “Silicon semiconductors are reaching their physical limits—it’ll probably happen within the next five to 10 years—but if we can implement qubits into semiconductors, we will be able to move beyond silicon,” says Hosung Seo, University of Chicago Postdoctoral Researcher and a first author of the paper.

    “Our community has been looking at diamond for some time, but it is interesting to study a less expensive material; our motivation is to find a practical and affordable replacement for silicon in semiconductors. Aluminum nitride is a perfect candidate because it is much cheaper than diamond and there are a number of technologies that can be developed starting from aluminum nitride wafers,” says Marco Govoni, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. He is also a co-author of the paper.

    In addition to Seo and Govoni, Giulia Galli is also a co-author on the paper. Galli is Liew Family Professor in Electronic Structure and Simulations at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering.

    The Strange World of Quantum Bits

    Quantum mechanics describes the laws of nature on the scale of individual atoms, nuclei and electrons. At the quantum scale, physics gets strange. Take for example quantum entanglement: this occurs when pairs or groups of particles interact in such a way that the state of each particle cannot be described individually, instead the state must be described for the system as a whole. In other words, entangled particles act as a unit.

    Another peculiar phenomenon of quantum mechanics is superposition, which occurs when two quantum states are added together to make another valid quantum state. So whereas a conventional computer bit encodes information as either zero or one, a qubit can be zero, one, or superposition of states (both zero and one at the same time). And, if these qubits could be linked or entangled in a quantum computer, problems that cannot be solved today with conventional computers could be tackled.

    Today, one of the most promising solid-state qubits is created when a nitrogen atom occupies a place near a vacant site in a diamond’s carbon lattice; this defect is called a nitrogen-vacancy center in diamond. The presence of nitrogen is actually what gives the diamond its yellowish tint.

    Using NERSC’s Edison supercomputer, the researchers found that by applying strain to aluminum nitride, one could create structural defects that may be harnessed as qubits similar to the one seen in diamond. Their calculations were performed using different levels of theory and the WEST code developed at the University of Chicago by Govoni, Galli and other researchers in Galli group.

    “The WEST code allowed us to accurately predict the position of the defect levels in the band-gap of semiconductors,” says Seo. “Ideally, we want to have defect levels in the middle of the band-gap of materials because this means that that the defect’s electronic structure is well isolated from that of the host material. This is important for the qubit’s stability, to avoid de-coherence”

    “We couldn’t have done this work without NERSC resources. In order to simulate these quantum defects you also need to accurately simulate the surrounding environment—this requires a lot of computational power,” says Govoni. “Basically you have a lot of atoms and a lot of electrons, and then in the middle of your simulation there is a defect which is the one you want to focus on, but it interacts with all the rest.”

    The next step for Seo, Govoni and Galli is to work with experimentalists to see if their theoretical predictions can be confirmed in a laboratory. This research was supported by the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of Chicago, which receives funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), and by Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. NERSC is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

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    The Beauty of Imperfections: Linking Atomic Defects to 2D Materials' Electronic Properties

    The Beauty of Imperfections: Linking Atomic Defects to 2D Materials' Electronic Properties

    Scientists at Berkeley Lab have revealed how atomic defects emerge in transition metal dichalcogenides, and how those defects shape the 2D material's electronic properties. Their findings could provide a versatile yet targeted platform for designing 2D materials for quantum information science.

    High school students' data science contributions boost biomineralization research

    High school students' data science contributions boost biomineralization research

    Two high school students developed software to analyze images of diatoms--algae that produce silicon for constructing cell walls--to determine the differences between wild and genetically modified strains of these organisms. This work was instrumental to a research team interested in optimizing diatoms for biomineralization, the process of making materials from biological systems.

    Turning Up the Heat to Create New Nanostructured Metals

    Turning Up the Heat to Create New Nanostructured Metals

    The metallic thin films with 3-D interlocking nanostructures could be used in catalysis, energy storage, and biomedical sensing.

    Blowing bubbles: PPPL scientist confirms novel way to launch and drive current in fusion plasmas

    Blowing bubbles: PPPL scientist confirms novel way to launch and drive current in fusion plasmas

    PPPL physicist Fatima Ebrahimi has used high-resolution computer simulations to confirm the practicality of the CHI start-up technique. The simulations show that CHI could produce electric current continuously in larger, more powerful tokamaks than exist today to produce stable fusion plasmas.

    A four-way switch promises greater tunability of layered materials

    A four-way switch promises greater tunability of layered materials

    A team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University made the first experimental observation of a material phase that had been predicted but never seen.

    Scientists discover ​"ripple" in flexible material that could improve electronic properties

    Scientists discover ​"ripple" in flexible material that could improve electronic properties

    Argonne scientists have discovered an intriguing new behavior in a two-dimensional material at the atomic level as it is stretched and strained, like it would be in an actual flexible device.

    AI for Plant Breeding in an Ever-Changing Climate

    AI for Plant Breeding in an Ever-Changing Climate

    In this Q&A, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Dan Jacobson talks about his team's work on a genomic selection algorithm, his vision for the future of environmental genomics, and the space where simulation meets AI.

    A New Parallel Strategy for Tackling Turbulence on Summit

    A New Parallel Strategy for Tackling Turbulence on Summit

    A team at Georgia Tech created a new turbulence algorithm optimized for the Summit supercomputer. It reached a performance of less than 15 seconds of wall-clock time per time step for more than 6 trillion grid points--a new world record surpassing the prior state of the art in the field for the size of the problem.

    Modeling Every Building in America Starts with Chattanooga

    Modeling Every Building in America Starts with Chattanooga

    An ORNL team used the Titan supercomputer to model every building serviced by the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga--all 178,368 of them--and discovered that EPB could potentially save $11-$35 million per year by adjusting electricity usage during peak critical times.

    Climate Change Expected to Shift Location of East Asian Monsoons

    Climate Change Expected to Shift Location of East Asian Monsoons

    More than a billion people in Asia depend on seasonal monsoons for their water needs. The Asian monsoon is closely linked to a planetary-scale tropical air flow which, according to a new study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will most likely shift geographically as the climate continues to warm, resulting in less rainfall in certain regions.


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    Argonne teams up with Altair to manage use of upcoming Aurora supercomputer

    Argonne teams up with Altair to manage use of upcoming Aurora supercomputer

    Argonne National Laboratory and Altair, a global technology company, have created a new scheduling system that will be employed on the Aurora supercomputer.

    University of Maryland, Baltimore County wins DOE's 2019 CyberForce Competition(tm)

    University of Maryland, Baltimore County wins DOE's 2019 CyberForce Competition(tm)

    After a long suspenseful day, University of Maryland, Baltimore County earned the top spot as national winner of the U.S. Department of Energy's CyberForce Competition.

    In its 15th year, INCITE advances open science with supercomputer grants to 47 projects

    In its 15th year, INCITE advances open science with supercomputer grants to 47 projects

    The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science announced allocations of supercomputer access to 47 science projects for 2020--awarding 60 percent of the available time on some of the nation's most powerful supercomputers, with the ultimate goal of accelerating discovery and innovation. In 2020, 14 projects will run on Theta and 39 projects on Summit, where six of these projects will receive an allocation on both systems.

    ASU solar awards eclipse other universities in latest round of DOE funding

    ASU solar awards eclipse other universities in latest round of DOE funding

    ASU receives $9.8 million in Solar Energy Technologies Office Awards.

    DOE to Provide $10 Million for New Research into Ecosystem Processes

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide $10 million for new observational and experimental studies aimed at improving the accuracy of today's Earth system models. Research will focus on three separate types of environments--terrestrial, watershed, and subsurface--where current models fall short of providing fully accurate representation.

    ORNL to host 13 teams for DOE CyberForce Competition

    ORNL to host 13 teams for DOE CyberForce Competition

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory will give college students the chance to practice cybersecurity skills in a real-world setting as a host of the Department of Energy's fifth collegiate CyberForce Competition on Nov. 16.

    Argonne nuclear engineer J'Tia Hart selected to Crain's Chicago Business "40 Under 40"

    Argonne nuclear engineer J'Tia Hart selected to Crain's Chicago Business "40 Under 40"

    Argonne nuclear engineer J'Tia Hart has been named to Crain's Chicago Business's "40 Under 40" list, which recognizes young leaders in a variety of fields.

    Lab-Wide Stormwater Capture, Transportation Savings and Clean-Up Efforts Win Federal Recognition

    Lab-Wide Stormwater Capture, Transportation Savings and Clean-Up Efforts Win Federal Recognition

    Argonne National Laboratory has won a regional Federal Green Challenge award for conserving resources and saving taxpayers' money.

    PPPL wins $70,000 in project funding from DOE for entrepreneurship

    PPPL wins $70,000 in project funding from DOE for entrepreneurship

    The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory receives funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for two projects to encourage entrepreneurship and mentor and encourage potential entrepreneurs.

    Brookhaven-Commonwealth Fusion Energy Project Wins DOE Funding

    Brookhaven-Commonwealth Fusion Energy Project Wins DOE Funding

    Brookhaven's Superconducting Magnet Division will partner with industry to develop and characterize superconducting power cables.


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    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Bone and mollusk shells are composite systems that combine living cells and inorganic components. This allows them to regenerate and change structure while also being very strong and durable. Borrowing from this amazing complexity, researchers have been exploring a new class of materials called engineered living materials (ELMs).

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Researchers developed two new methods to assess and remove error in how scientists measure quantum systems. By reducing quantum "noise" - uncertainty inherent to quantum processes - these new methods improve accuracy and precision.

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a widely applicable material, from magnetic tunnel junctions to solid oxide fuel cells. However, when it gets thin, its behavior changes for the worse. The reason why was not known. Now, using two theoretical methods, a team determined what happens.

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    How an ion behaves when isolated within an analytical instrument can differ from how it behaves in the environment. Now, Xue-Bin Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised a way to bring ions and molecules together in clusters to better discover their properties and predict their behavior.

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Shape affects how the particles fit together and, in turn, the resulting material. For the first time, a team observed the self-assembly of nanoparticles with tetrahedral shapes.

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    This study is the first to confirm dust particles pre-dating the formation of our solar system. Further study of these materials will enable a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them.

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Future fusion reactors will require materials that can withstand extreme operating conditions, including being bombarded by high-energy neutrons at high temperatures. Scientists recently irradiated titanium diboride (TiB2) in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to better understand the effects of fusion neutrons on performance.

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    In breast cancer screening, an imaging technique based on nuclear medicine is currently being used as a successful secondary screening tool alongside mammography to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. Now, a team is hoping to improve this imaging technique.

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Scientists can use genetic information to measure if microbes in the environment can perform specific ecological roles. Researchers recently analyzed the genomes of over 6,000 microbial species.


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