Assistant professor of physics Adrian Del Maestro was awarded a $525,000 grant from the NSF to both push forward the theoretical understanding of quantum entanglement—and to reach out to Vermont high school students and other young people who will be the. “But that can also be looked at as a huge opportunity.”. And it gets weirder. But the mile isn’t the point. Del Maestro’s pioneering work—including his invention of the first theoretical method to measure “operational entanglement” in a many-body quantum system—will complement these experimental efforts. Instead of being the purview of quasi-philosophical speculations, quantum entanglement (that now can be easily created in a modern laboratory) may soon be used in the macro-world of human society—as a tool for information processing, secure communication, and computers many millions of times faster than today’s fastest. The first step in building a quantum computer is figuring out how traditional computers work. Traditionally, building a quantum circuit is like building a house of cards. A very large string of ones and zeros is the foundation of all the codes that make a computer work. Even if they are on opposite sides of the galaxy, they are entangled. In a rough sense, it’s the fact that when a group of particles are mixed together into a system they maintain connections, even after the parts are physically separated. Quantum fuel. Measuring the spin of one of the electrons instantaneously determined the outcome of the measurement of the spin of its partner. And it is this unmeasured probabilistic condition that Del Maestro and other theorists see as the engine for a fundamentally new kind of computer—a quantum computer. “This could be the fuel for a quantum computer,” Del Maestro says. In 1971, 2,300 transistors could be packed onto an Intel computer chip. It could be a zero or a one—at the same time—when things get that small,” he says—and you’ve reached the ultimate size limit of a traditional silicon transistor. And it is this unmeasured probabilistic condition that Del Maestro and other theorists see as the engine for a fundamentally new kind of computer—a quantum computer. This, and other related recent discoveries, “brings the technological exploitation of many-body entanglement as a resource within reach,” Del Maestro notes. “Instead of looking at that ‘zero or one?’ question as a problem, maybe we can rethink computation as a way to use that uncertainty—to use entanglement as a resource,” he says. But Moore’s law is running into physical limits—“quantum limits,” Del Maestro says. A measurement of one atom's spin determines the corresponding result of a measurement of the other, regardless of how far they are apart. Microsoft’s approach to quantum computing is different. A quantum computer, on the other hand, has a unique way of sorting through possible solutions and can have an answer in a matter of minutes! A qubit might be one of those unmeasured electrons. But in an amazing experiment announced in April 2015, a team at Harvard was able to make real-world measurements of the amount of entanglement in lattices of these ultra-cold atoms. “If you make the distance between the terminal so small, then electrons can tunnel, quantum mechanically, through the barrier. UVM physicist wins NSF CAREER grant to study entanglement. A qubit might be one of those unmeasured electrons. Now imagine a bunch of, say, atoms of helium cooled to near absolute zero. Here is how to build one. Isn’t it naïve to chase after particles that can’t be distinguished from each other or properties that can’t be measured? Instead of being just a one or zero, a qubit can be in multiple possible positions at the same time. “Entanglement is the fundamental property of quantum mechanics,” he says. Adrian Del Maestro wants to kill fluffy bunnies. Indeed this paradoxical truth (that Schrödinger made famous in 1935 with his both dead and alive cat) is a necessary foundation of entanglement. A traditional computer relies on bits. You’re trying to build a large structure by putting cards on top of each other, and the slightest noise or interference from the outside will destroy the house of cards. That’s a lot of entanglement. This is what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance,” and though it might seem to violate the laws of the universe it really just shows that our human view of location is an illusion. A classical bit is either one or zero. They’ll be developing algorithms on conventional supercomputers—including processors on the Vermont Advanced Computing Core at UVM—that seek answers to questions like: how much entanglement can be extracted from a superfluid—the wildly complex fuel of a quantum computer—and transferred to a more-orderly register of qubits, say a lattice of electrons? But is all this entanglement—what physicists call “many-body” entanglement—just like a fluffy toy bunny at the carnival—very enticing but ultimately useless? Left: spatial entanglement where atoms in two separated regions share quantum information. “Basically, you can have much more information in a quantum bit,” Del Maestro says. Right: particle entanglement for identical atoms (colored here for clarity) due to quantum statistics and interactions. Instead of relying on a binary bit, these computers will have qubits—quantum bits—as their base unit. This is what Del Maestro means by the electrons in the transistor being a one and zero—and millions of possibilities in between—at the same time.

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