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Ion traps for macroscopic particles, a quantum training tool

Electrical and Computer Engineering








The computers that we use rely on bits, informational elements that can be true or false (0 or 1), which are stored in memory, and used in computations that boil down to applying simple logical gates (AND, OR, XOR, etc.) between bits. This combination of simple operations gives rise to all of the applications of computing. In the 1980s, an idea emerged to use a quantum object (such as the angular momentum of an atom) as a logical bit for computation. We refer to these quantum bits as “qubits.” It has been proven mathematically that a computer relying on qubits can solve specific practical problems in computing exponentially faster than a normal computer. Scaling such a quantum computer to the number bits employed in classical computers is a huge engineering challenge because qubits are difficult to prepare. One of the leading contenders for scaling is to develop chips that trap individual atomic ions to physically shuttle them around the chip by controlling electric fields on the chip. Such chips are a main area of development for IonQ, a quantum computing company which recently announced a $1 Billion dollar in the pacific northwest over 10 years. Our project aims to create such a device, but instead of trapping single atoms it will trap macroscopic particles (pollen grains or polystyrene beads). We plan to provide hands-on access to this apparatus through a variety of educational opportunities, in an effort to prepare UW scientists and engineers to join the quantum workforce.


Students who do not access the equipment through a course can contact the QT3 director and staff at as advertised on the QT3 lab website.

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