Synopsis: Unexpected error

Elastic scattering may be a larger source of qubit error than previously thought.
Synopsis figure
Credit: H. Uys et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. (2010)

The same lasers that trap, cool, and manipulate atoms or ions to make qubits can cause them to lose coherence. The reason is that when light scatters from an atom, it carries away information about the atom by encoding it in the form of frequency (inelastic scattering, which changes the energy) or phase (elastic scattering, which doesn’t change energy but does disrupt the wave function).

Elastic, or Rayleigh, scattering has mostly been ignored as a source of qubit decoherence or “error,” but in a paper appearing in Physical Review Letters, Hermann Uys, now at the National Laser Centre in Pretoria, South Africa, and colleagues at NIST and JILA in the US and the Weizmann Institute in Israel present new calculations, backed by experiments, that point to cases where this assumption is wrong.

Uys et al. calculate the probability that an atomic qubit, which can be in a high-energy, spin “up” state or a low-energy, spin “down” state, will elastically scatter a photon of a particular frequency, and identify a window of frequencies where the two states’ combined elastic scattering is a significant source of decoherence. As proof of their model, they laser-cool a lattice of beryllium ions that, in a magnetic field, act as spin “up” or “down” qubits. The group prepares the ions in a particular spin state and then exposes them to a tunable laser. This allows them to measure the experimental conditions where elastic scattering of the laser light from the beryllium atoms causes the encoded spin information to be most rapidly lost.

Uys et al.’s new insight will be an important addition to the checklist of error sources in quantum information experiments with trapped atoms. – Jessica Thomas


Announcements

More Announcements »

Subject Areas

Quantum InformationOptics

Previous Synopsis

Quantum Information

Towards a handheld optical table

Read More »

Next Synopsis

Related Articles

Synopsis: Graphene’s Elegant Optics Explained
Graphene

Synopsis: Graphene’s Elegant Optics Explained

Theoretical calculations anchor graphene’s simple optical absorption in its two-dimensional structure instead of its cone-shaped energy bands. Read More »

Synopsis: Sharper Vision for Infrared Telescopes
Optics

Synopsis: Sharper Vision for Infrared Telescopes

Converting infrared light to visible light might boost the sensitivity of infrared telescope arrays. Read More »

Viewpoint: Photon Qubit is Made of Two Colors
Optics

Viewpoint: Photon Qubit is Made of Two Colors

Single particles of light can be prepared in a quantum superposition of two different colors, an achievement that could prove useful for quantum information processing. Read More »

More Articles