For the first time, scientists managed to control a chemical reaction in a way that creates a single molecule from exactly two atoms – a major breakthrough for the world of quantum computing.
This world first achievement was carried out by a team of Harvard University scientists who managed to take one sodium and one cesium atom together into a single molecule using laser tweezers. This is a significant achievement for the world of quantum computing, as the molecule wouldn’t normally form a molecule – giving us, for the first time, the ability to precisely control these reactions to create the outcomes that we want.
The combination of the sodium and cesium atoms into a single molecule behaves a lot like an alloy, and becomes a material that can greatly advance the use of quantum computing.
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To put it more simply, molecules are only created when atoms bond together during a chemical reaction. While we were able to create molecules on our own before, we were only able to do so using clusters of atoms. The ability to take just two atoms and create a single molecule represents an achievement in precision that many wondered if possible, and has implications for a number of fields – with the combination carried out in this specific experiment being useful for quantum computing.
In order to form these molecules, Kang-Kuen Ni, an assistant professor Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Harvard, managed to disrupt the process using a laser as the main mechanism by which the chemical reaction took place.
As far as the actual experiment went, the research team cooled the sodium and cesium to extremely low temperatures at which new quantum phases of gas, liquid, and solid emerged in previous trials. Once these temperatures, the team managed to capture the molecules using laser tweezers in order to merge them through a process called “optical dipole trap.”
Once this trap was completed, the laser beams stimulated the atoms and caused them to form a single molecule which the scientists have referred to as a “dipolar molecule”.
“What we have done differently is to create more control over it (chemical reaction)… The whole process is happening in an ultra-high vacuum with very low density,” said Ni in the paper published in Science.
In terms of the advancement of quantum computing, the main way in which this discovery is significant is that the dipolar molecule introduces a new type of “qubit” – the smallest form of quantum information. While the process has applications in a variety of fields, the discovery of a new qubit in the field of quantum computing is the experiment’s crowning achievement.
“”…the molecular space is so huge, we cannot sufficiently explore it with current computers. If we have quantum computers that could potentially solve complex problems and explore molecular space efficiently, the impact will be large,” says Ni.
Quantum computing is a relatively new but extremely promising field of study, and may lead to breakthroughs in the world of artificial intelligence. It also has applications in the field of molecular and chemical reactions – potentially leading to the discovery of brand new medicines. While it may not be clear initially what the application of the ability to fuse two atoms into a single molecule means – at least to the average person – we may see the introduction of some brand new technology that has a significant impact on our day to day lives and health if artificial intelligence continues to improve and life-saving medications continue to be developed.
Harvard has released a statement that “In terms of size, it may be the smallest scientific breakthrough ever made at Harvard,” but this breakthrough is anything but small when it comes to the implications for quantum computing and a variety of other fields that will benefit from this brand new technique.