A special form of light made using an ancient Namibian gemstone could be the key to new light-based quantum computers. This can solve long-held scientific mysteries. This is according to new research led by the University of St Andrews.
The research was conducted in collaboration with scientists at Harvard University in the US, Macquarie University in Australia and Aarhus University in Denmark and published in Nature Materials. Scientists used a naturally mined cuprous oxide (Cu2O) gemstone from Namibia to produce Rydberg polaritons which is the largest hybrid particles of light and matter ever created.
Rydberg polaritons switch continually from light to matter and back again. In Rydberg polaritons, light and matter are like two sides of a coin. The matter side is what makes polaritons interact with each other.
This interaction is crucial because this is what allows the creation of quantum simulators which is a special type of quantum computer. There the information is stored in quantum bits. These quantum bits can take any value between 0 and 1. They can therefore store much more information and perform several processes simultaneously.
This capability could allow quantum simulators to solve important mysteries of physics, chemistry and biology. This includes how to make high-temperature superconductors for highspeed trains, how cheaper fertilizers could be made potentially solving global hunger and how proteins fold making it easier to produce more effective drugs.
Scientists trapped light between two highly reflective mirrors, to create Rydberg polaritons. A cuprous oxide crystal from a stone mined in Namibia was then thinned and polished to a 30-micrometer thick slab and sandwiched between the two mirrors to make Rydberg polaritons 100 times larger than ever demonstrated before. Scientists are currently further refining these methods in order to explore the possibility of making quantum circuits. These are the next ingredient for quantum simulators.