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QD Spins Made Identical

Photonics.com
Nov 2007
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2007 -- Scientists are closer to developing novel devices for optics-based quantum computing and quantum information processing as a result of a new understanding of how to make all the spins in an ensemble of quantum dots identical.

This understanding, based on a new optical technique and announced recently by researchers from the US and Germany, is an important step toward creating quantum devices based on solid-state technology.

An electron spin localized in a quantum dot (QD) is the quantum bit, which is the basic unit for solid-state based quantum computing and quantum information processing. The spin replaces a classical digital bit, which can take on two values, usually labeled 0 and 1. The electron spin can also take on two values. However, since it is a quantum object, it can also take all values in between.

Such a quantum unit can hold much more information than a classical one, and the use of such quantum bits makes certain computer calculations exponentially more efficient than those using a standard computer. That is why scientists around the world are trying to find an efficient way to control and manipulate the electron spin in a QD in order to enable new quantum devices using magnetic and electric fields.

Until now, the major problem with using charged QDs in such devices is that the electron spins in different QDs are never identical. The electron spin precession frequencies in an external magnetic field are different from each other due to small variations of QD shape and size. In addition, the electron spin precession frequency has a contribution of a random hyperfine field of the nuclear spins in the quantum dot volume. This makes a coherent control and manipulation of electron spins in an ensemble of QDs impossible and pushes researchers to work with individual spins and to develop single spin manipulation techniques, which are much more complicated than an ensemble manipulation technique.

The team of researchers at the University of Dortmund, Germany, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the University of Bochum, Germany, has taken a significant step toward solving this problem by suggesting a new technique that would allow coherent manipulations of an ensemble of electron spins. Last year in the journal Science, the same team demonstrated that a tailored periodic illumination with a pulsed laser can drive a large fraction of electron spins (up to 30 percent) in an ensemble of quantum dots into a synchronized motion.

In their new research, which appeared in Science in September, the team shows that almost the whole ensemble of electron spins (90 percent) precesses coherently under periodic resonant excitation. It turns out that the nuclear contribution to the electron spin precession acts constructively by focusing the electron spin precession in different quantum dots to a few precession modes controlled by the laser excitation protocol, instead of acting as a random perturbation of electron spins, as it was thought previously. The modification of the laser protocol should allow scientists to reach a situation in which all electron spins have the same precession frequency, in other words to make all spins identical.

Future efforts involving the use of these identical electron spins will focus on demonstrating all coherent single q-bit operations using an ensemble of charged QDs. Another important use of such ensembles for quantum computing will be the demonstration of a quantum-dot gate operation. The macroscopic coherent precession of the electron spin ensemble will allow scientists to study several optical coherent phenomena, such as electromagnetically induced transparency and slow light, for example.

For more information, visit: http://www.nrl.navy.mil


GLOSSARY
electron
A charged elementary particle of an atom; the term is most commonly used in reference to the negatively charged particle called a negatron. Its mass at rest is me = 9.109558 x 10-31 kg, its charge is 1.6021917 x 10-19 C, and its spin quantum number is 1/2. Its positive counterpart is called a positron, and possesses the same characteristics, except for the reversal of the charge.
optical
Pertaining to optics and the phenomena of light.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
quantum dots
Also known as QDs. Nanocrystals of semiconductor materials that fluoresce when excited by external light sources, primarily in narrow visible and near-infrared regions; they are commonly used as alternatives to organic dyes.  
spin
Acronym for self-aligned polysilicon interconnect N-channel. A metal-gate process that uses aluminum for the metal-oxide semiconductor (MOS) gate electrode as well as for signal and power supply connectors.
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