Researchers Discover Technique for Halting Quantum Waves

New technology could lead to improvements in quantum computers.

A University at Buffalo-led research team has developed a way to halt and control quantum waves. The team, which is led by University at Buffalo (UB) professors Jon Bird and Jong Han, along with collaborators at UB, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Korea Institute for Advanced Study, says research could eventually lead to breakthroughs in computing, medicine, cryptography, material science, and other applications.

The work is described in the journal Physical Review Letters. The researchers isolated a specially built nanoconductor at an extremely cold temperature – minus 273 degrees Celsius. Under such conditions in this ultrasmall device, electrons exhibit a wavelike nature.

In other words, they behave more like ripples on the surface of a pond as opposed to point-like particles, which are often described as billiard-ball-like objects that bound around in straight lines.

“Much like light, or waves in the ocean, these quantum waves can behave in ways that we would not expect for particles. They can bend around corners, for example, and the challenge is to develop techniques to control, or steer, them,” says Han.

“In the study, the UB researchers achieved this by applying a small amount of voltage to the conductor, thereby allowing them to shake its atoms in a controllable fashion. As the atoms were made to shake more strongly, they provided a greater source of resistance to the quantum waves, which blocked the waves from passing through the conductor.”

For more information, see the press release at the University at Buffalo website.