Quantum computers and superconducting microprocessors usually operate optimally at temperatures around absolute zero (-459.67° Fahrenheit). However, they still have to exchange information and interact with traditional devices running at room temperature. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, have developed a device that mediates the communication between these two types of devices, hoping to enable seamless integration between cutting-edge and traditional technologies in the future.
Quantum computers, devices that operate based on quantum physics laws, are expected to revolutionize all industries due to their capacity to solve problems that are out of reach for traditional computational devices. Even though some prototypes have been proven to work at room temperature, most quantum computers need to be cooled at temperatures close to absolute zero to minimize errors and facilitate the quantum states. At the same time, quantum devices haven’t yet reached their full potential; thus, present operational solutions propose a hybrid approach, in which computations are performed partly on a quantum device and partly on a traditional one.
Currently, the connection between cryogenic systems and room-temperature electronics is established via standard metal wires. However, these wires transfer heat into the circuits and allow only small amounts of data to be transmitted. The solution proposed by Paolo Pintus, the lead researcher within UC Santa Barbara’s Optoelectronics Research Group, is to convert data from electric current to light pulses using magnetic fields. Then, the light can be transferred via fiber-optic cables, which have a larger data capacity and minimize the heat that leaks into the cryogenic system.
The prototype has already been tested in projects developed together with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Quantum Computing and Engineering group of BBN Raytheon. According to Pintus, “[t]he promising results demonstrated in this work could pave the way for a new class of energy-efficient cryogenic devices, leading the research toward high-performing (unexplored) magneto-optic materials that can operate at low temperatures.”
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