Research Fellows Directory
Dr Gavin Morley
University of Warwick
The laws of quantum physics allow atoms to do two different things simultaneously. We're investigating and harnessing this property by developing quantum technologies including a quantum computer and quantum sensors. These inventions use single atoms to store information. Atoms are even smaller than the tiny transistors used in our modern computers, but we're not aiming to further shrink our laptops and mobile phones. Instead, it’s the special features of quantum physics that makes this work so exciting.
Normal computers store information as bits which must be either 1 or 0. Quantum bits can try out the 1 and 0 states at the same time, leading to the chance for multi-tasking on a grand scale. The quantum bits that we use are bismuth atoms in silicon crystals and nitrogen vacancy centres in synthetic diamond. These defects have a quantum property called spin, which we use to store the quantum information. Spin is like a tiny compass needle which can point up or down to represent 1 or 0. The job of the silicon or diamond crystal is to hold the defects in place without providing any disturbances.
To control the quantum spins we use magnetic resonance. Doctors already use this technology to scan our brains with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We put our spins into a magnet and then control the direction the spins are pointing in by sending in microwaves and radiowaves. The direction of the spins encodes the quantum information we want to store.
Despite small-scale demonstrations it has not yet been possible to create a quantum computer that’s big enough to be useful. However, we are discoving new things along the way. For example we are developing magnetic field sensors which could be used for medical diagnostics, as well as aiming to test fundamental physics questions such as how large an object can be before it is forbidden to try out being in two places at once.
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