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New State of Matter Boosts Quantum Computation

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the string-net-liquid dept.

Science 41

Matthew Sparkes writes "In theory, quantum computers can be superior to classical computers for some kinds of problems; in practice their building blocks, qubits, are extremely fragile. Even a slight knock can destroy information. A radical solution to this problem was proposed in the 80's — instead of storing qubits in properties of particles, such as an electron's spin, it was suggested that qubits could be encoded into properties shared by the whole material, and so would be harder to disrupt. Unfortunately, no material with the needed properties existed. Scientists now think they have made a material in the lab, thought to be an example of a new state of matter, that might do the trick. It's an ultra-purified form of a mineral, herbertsmithite, first discovered in Chile in 1972. Its electrons are arranged in a triangular lattice. Researchers say it could become the silicon of the quantum computing era."

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41 comments

Herbertsmithite? (4, Funny)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18360869)

Wow. I wonder who discovered the mineral...?

Re:Herbertsmithite? (3, Informative)

Exsam (768226) | more than 7 years ago | (#18360939)

Surprisingly enough not Herbert Smith. TFA states that the material was named after a man the discovering geologists admired greatly. On another note, this material seems really interesting and I hope its unique properties can be applied usefully.

Your material (1)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18360963)

Your material intrigues me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Herbertsmithite? (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361197)

On another note, this material seems really interesting and I hope its unique properties can be applied usefully.

Yeah, who needs privacy?

Re:Herbertsmithite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18372191)

You don't know much about quantum computing do you? Look up quantum crypto, based on quantum entanglement. ;)

Re:Herbertsmithite? (1)

WombatDeath (681651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361039)

Wikipedia has a list of minerals, some of which have excellent names. My current favourite is Hexatestibiopanickelite.

"Aargh! This mineral has given me six testicles!"

Re:Herbertsmithite? (4, Funny)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362865)

It's named after its discoverer, H. Erbertsmithite.

Very cool material (4, Insightful)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18360885)

Unfortunately, while TFA is descriptive and informative, it reads more like a PR than a scientific paper. It sounds like everything still needs to be verified. The headline is certainly misleading, as no experiments of any sort have been done to prove that they can do any of the manipulations that are required to advance quantum computing.

This is merely the very very early stages of basic research. Very interesting none the less.

Yeah, like "fourth state"!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18365467)

I guess they don't know the states of matter if they think this is the fourth: solid, liquid, gas, plasma, Bose-Einstein condensate, and then perhaps whatever this stuff is. I still remember some old game show where they tried to get people to figure out the fourth state (they meant plasma, but I'd have loved to answer B-E condensate) and everyone tried to say "nil" or "nothing" or something, in spite of that contradicting the very definition of "matter" ...

And I'm not even going to consider suspensions, because there are more of those than I can remember offhand (aerosols, amalgams, ...).

Re:Yeah, like "fourth state"!? (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18366281)

But suspensions and the like are mixtures with sometimes odd behavior. Toothpaste and liquid body armor are two with oddball properties. Basic glass is another odd material, a homogeneous super-cooled liquid that mostly acts like a solid. But they all fall within the "normal" states.

Plasma and B-E condensates have both been created in the lab. It's interesting to see a natural new state appearing on the planet.

"Holographic" quantum storage... (2, Interesting)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18360987)

Hi,

The implication that the information is distributed like that in an optical hologram is very interesting, and doubly difficult to get my head around...

But the fact remains that if you damage/disturb a holographic store you lose some information, even if that loss is spread over a large set of information. Maybe the ECC (error-correcting-code) technology being used in new small-geometry silicon CPUs could help if it can be done 'quantum-ly'.

Rgds

Damon

Re:"Holographic" quantum storage... (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361687)

Yes, you can have Quantum Error Correction [wikipedia.org]

Destroy information? (1)

Bob Gelumph (715872) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361091)

I thought that was impossible...

Re:Destroy information? (1)

Bob Gelumph (715872) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361165)

Mod Parent Down!
Accidental post. Look further down for complete post... Or don't... Your choice

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361095)

In Soviet Russia, matter states you.

Re:Obligatory (1)

jeffshoaf (611794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361323)

No, no: In Soviet Russia, information destroys you!

Re:Obligatory (1)

tsalaroth (798327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364503)

What are you talking about? That happens in the USA!

New kind of matter? (4, Informative)

sxeraverx (962068) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361107)

This hardly seems to be a new kind of matter (i.e., matter, dark matter, anti-matter), or even a new phase of matter (solid, liquid, gas, [plasma?]). The article means it's a new phase, as it talks between the difference between solid and liquid. However, it mentions electrons as the determining factor, where it's actually nuclei. Heck, in solid metal, atoms have a lattice structure, but valence electrons flow freely from one to another, which is what makes metals such good conductors. The only thing remarkable about this compound is that it is supposedly arranged in a new space group.

Yes, it's new (3, Insightful)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362537)

In the traditional Landau paradigm, phases of matter arise as broken symmetries of the Hamiltonian, with different phases corresponding to different symmetries and described by a "local order parameter" (e.g. magnetization).

With the advent of developments in high-temperature superconductivity and the quantum Hall effect, new phases were found that exist completely outside the Landau paradigm: topological order [wikipedia.org] , in which there is no local symmetry, yet the topology of the system can globally distinguish one phase from another.

Excitations of these systems with topological order were once thought to be necessarily "gapped", that is, the quasiparticle excitations have an effective mass. However, Wen has proposed a more general notion of "quantum order", in which gapless (massless) quasiparticles, analogous to photons or other gauge vector bosons, can appear.

The mechanism by which this occurs, in Wen's paradigm, is through "string net condensation". In quantum field theory, from the work of Polyakov and others, it is possible to think of the field lines connecting particles as "strings", with the particles residing at the endpoints of the strings. The fields are gauge fields, so the "stringy" field lines correspond to the massless gauge bosons, as opposed to the massive matter particles that serve as the string endpoints. Wen's quantum order has excitations in a spin lattice correspond effectively to strings (massless "force field" quasiparticles), which are open, i.e., have endpoints (massive "matter" quasiparticles).

There are actually strong analogies between these ideas and actual string theory (as noted by my reference to Polyakov's work). In fact, Wen did his Ph.D. in string theory under Edward Witten before switching to condensed matter.

The work [arxiv.org] discussed in this story is an experimental demonstration of a system with gapless excitations that do not obey Landau's local order paradigm, and thus relate to Wen's work on quantum order. (I am fuzzy on the details so I don't know to what extent this work is a confirmation of Wen's theories. I also don't know how novel gapless excitations are without symmetry breaking.)

You can read more about this from his work [arxiv.org] , such as this [arxiv.org] . Wen has even proposed that perhaps the actual photons and electrons we think are real are really just quasiparticle excitations arising from a low energy (large scale) effective field theory of some underlying submicroscopic lattice that we can't see — see here [arxiv.org] : he can recover many (but not all) of the aspects of the particle physics this way, and argues that it unifies light and matter (since open strings always have endpoints). I think he has problems with chiral fermions, IIRC. The big stumbling block is of course gravity, although he has made efforts in that direction too (here [arxiv.org] ). He has written a graduate textbook [mit.edu] on these ideas; he also has some talks up on his web page [mit.edu] .

Re:Yes, it's new (2, Interesting)

pallmall1 (882819) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364843)

Excitations of these systems with topological order were once thought to be necessarily "gapped", that is, the quasiparticle excitations have an effective mass. However, Wen has proposed a more general notion of "quantum order", in which gapless (massless) quasiparticles, analogous to photons or other gauge vector bosons, can appear.
One thing that immediately sprang to mind was that this might have an impact on the notions of phonons (not photons) in a crystalline lattice. Perhaps they are not quantized after all, at least not in the mineral herbertsmithite. "Gapless band" material properties may potentially be as revolutionary to semiconductor physics as the band gap properties of materials have been.

At the very least, it will be interesting to see what the phase diagram of herbersmithite looks like.

Re:Yes, it's new (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18365107)

In Wen's theory phonons remain quantized; his theory is fundamentally quantum in nature (his work is based on ordinary quantum spin lattices). I don't know this experiment should have anything to do with the quantization of phonons.

Re:Yes, it's new (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 7 years ago | (#18373181)

Wen has even proposed that perhaps the actual photons and electrons we think are real are really just quasiparticle excitations arising from a low energy (large scale) effective field theory of some underlying submicroscopic lattice that we can't see

This seems to fit well with the Discrete Universe ideas. Thanks for the links.

Re:New kind of matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18363881)

If you read the article the way i did, you'll realise that it's part solid, part liquid, making it a soquid. Thus solving the riddle of what Wendy's Frostees are made of.

Destroy information? (2, Funny)

Bob Gelumph (715872) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361131)

I thought that was impossible.
Otherwise Hawking wants his book back.

Re:Destroy information? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18362741)

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
use Digest::MD5;
use Digest::MD5 qw (md5_hex);
use Encode qw (encode_utf8);
my $lost_essay_md5sum = shift (@ARGV);
if (not defined $lost_essay_md5sum) {
  printf "Syntax: recover.pl <md5sum>\n";
  exit;
}
sub recover_lost_essay {
  # currently only finds [a-z]* with no spaces
  my $hash = shift;
  my $essay = "a";
  while (md5_hex (encode_utf8 ($essay)) ne $hash) { ++$essay; };
  return $essay;
}
print recover_lost_essay ($lost_essay_md5sum);
My point is that information is lost any time you have a function where the size of the range is less than the size of the domain, since by the pigeonhole principle that means at least one pair of inputs must share the same output value. Information is "lost" because you cannot reliably recover the original input. That's analogous to the type of information loss they're talking about here.

Re:Destroy information? (1)

Raptoer (984438) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368339)

not really destroying, just converting in such a way so that there is no way to determine the original. but yeah... destroying.

Rename the Valley Now (5, Funny)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361179)

Herbertsmithite...[r]esearchers say it could become the silicon of the quantum computing era.

The new technology center, in the San Francisco Bay Area, formerly known as Silicon Valley has been rechristened "Herbertsmithite Valley". Stars are flocking to get the new Herbertsmithite Breast Implants (Quantum Boobies).

Wait.

Nevermind, don't think it will fly.

Re:Rename the Valley Now (1)

jizziknight (976750) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361289)

I think you've confused silicon with siliconE.

Can we get a -1 Obvious mod? Because that would be a great one to use on my post.

Re:Rename the Valley Now (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361617)

Stars are flocking to get the new Herbertsmithite Breast Implants (Quantum Boobies).
I predict these will be amazingly popular, as they exist as all sizes and cups simultaneously, taking the shape as preferred by the observer.

Re:Rename the Valley Now (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361673)

Quantum Boobies?

You mean they may(or may not) exist, but you won't know until shes in the sack?

No thanks.

PS: the i'm-not-a-script word for this post was "dickens"

Re:Rename the Valley Now (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362473)

You mean they may(or may not) exist, but you won't know until shes in the sack?

Schroedingers Pussy...cat.

I've always wondered... (1)

jessecurry (820286) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361217)

I've always wondered why scientists attempt to separate everything. I suppose having a small section of nature makes it easier to understand, but everything is one, you can't separate me from my environment and you can't separate light from matter.

Re:I've always wondered... (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362611)

Scientists don't attempt to separate everything. Much of modern physics has been concerned with unifying things together, in fact. A lot of that unification has been with the fundamental forces. String theory provides one way to unify the forces (e.g., electromagnetism or "light") with matter: force-carrying particles and matter particles are both vibrational modes of strings. The "string net condensation" idea is a different way to unify light and matter: forces as strings, matter as the endpoints of the strings. This is also related to ideas in string theory, but its realization in a condensed matter system instead of in terms of fundamental strings is new.

Silicon of the future? (Is it COMMON?) (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361321)

"...ultra-purified form of a mineral, herbertsmithite, first discovered in Chile in 1972. Its electrons are arranged in a triangular lattice. Researchers say it could become the silicon of the quantum computing era."


This is the "silicon of the future"? If it wasn't discovered until the 1970s it doesn't sound exceedingly common...

At least we can be sure that "Dippin' Dots" will be "the ice cream of the quantum computing era."

Re:Silicon of the future? (Is it COMMON?) (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367719)

At least we can be sure that "Dippin' Dots" will be "the ice cream of the quantum computing era".

If you're sure of anything, you're obviously not a quantum physics researcher.

Omigod! Does this mean ... (1)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361631)

dilithium is next?

Re:Omigod! Does this mean ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361905)

Cue:

- sensors detect large amounts of Herbertsmithite on planet 4

- aah, the Herbertsmithite chamber is breaking up!

- this container of Triherbertsmithite will make me rich

- Quiet, or you'll get ten years in the Herbertsmithite mines!

Re:Omigod! Does this mean ... (1)

imboboage0 (876812) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367803)

Isn't that what they make flux capacitors out of?

Get the paper here (2, Informative)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362101)

The preprint [arxiv.org] .

String theory with proof? (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363389)

This appears to be somewhat related to string theory, though I'm sure someone more versed in the art can tell me how I'm not even wrong on this point.

But in a more layman sense, there appear to be some string concepts at work here, but with one subtle difference... It looks provable.

Want to start a tech company? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18366225)

Buy some land on my new real estate project: the Herbertsmithite Valley!
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