Quantum technologies have the potential to help create next-generation computers, sensors and communication networks—but doing so requires building a scalable platform in which quantum bits (“qubits”) can be controlled individually and retain information for a long time.

In a new study, scientists at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory managed to do exactly that. The team demonstrated control of atomic quantum memories in silicon carbide, a common material found in electric cars and LED light bulbs. Then, they used this control to create an “entangled state,” representing a connection between the quantum memories and electrons trapped in the semiconductor material.

Published Sept. 21 in Nature Materials, the study effectively shows how one could encode and write quantum information onto the core of a single atom, unlocking the potential for building qubits that can remain operational—or “coherent”—for extremely long times. The study results hold major implications for quantum computing, according to the authors.

“Just like a desktop computer has different types of memory for various purposes, we envision quantum technologies will have similar needs,” said co-first author Alexandre Bourassa, a graduate student at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. “Our trapped electron is like a CPU, where different nuclear spins can effectively be used as a quantum RAM and hard-drive to provide both medium- and long-term storage of quantum information.”

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