Working with collaborators worldwide, they have recently tested three different approaches to the problem, one of which can operate at room temperature – a critical step if quantum computing is going to become a practical tool.
In all three cases the group started with semiconductor crystals, material with a regular atomic lattice like the girders of a skyscraper. By slightly altering this lattice, they sought to create a structure in which the atomic forces exerted by the material could confine a spinning electron.
"We are trying to develop the basic working unit of a quantum chip, the equivalent of the transistor on a silicon chip," Vuckovic said.
One way to create this laser-electron interaction chamber is through a structure known as a quantum dot. Physically, the quantum dot is a small amount of indium arsenide inside a crystal of gallium arsenide. The atomic properties of the two materials are known to trap a spinning electron.