Science 2 min read

Thin-Film Breakthrough to Give Quantum Technologies a Boost

Using two-dimensional films to control single-photon emission is a big development for quantum computers and quantum technologies in general.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

There’s one critical feature that all-optical quantum devices, which make up quantum computers and other quantum technologies like internet and cybersecurity, must have, and that’s their ability to emit single photons.

This led engineers to focus their efforts on two-dimensional materials, like graphene, for their intrinsic emission properties.

Last year, an international research team showed that graphene quantum dots could be used as stable room-temperature single-photon emitters.

At the University of Oregon, scientists created artificial atoms based on white graphene that can release single photons at room temperature and in air.

There’s another design for quantum single-photon emitters, this time from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico.

Quantum Technologies: Single-Photon Generation

A multi-institution research team led by Los Alamos scientists report they have developed a thin film to control the generation of single photons at a precise location.

This thin film, made from two 2D materials, tungsten and selenium, pave the way “for beyond-lab-scale quantum materials.”

As they described in a paper that was featured in the journal Applied Physics Letters, researchers created highly precise emission sites, or tips, in the 750–800 nm regime, by exploiting strain. They synthesized the 2D film, through chemical vapor deposition using a multistep diffusion-mediated gas source chemical vapor deposition technique.

Because the tungsten/selenium film is so thin, it conforms to the radius of the tips and bends slightly around them, like a sheet on a bed of nails. The strain is enough to make the tips emit light of a different color and nature than that from other areas in the film.

Michael Pettes, a Los Alamos National Laboratory materials scientist and research lead of the project, noted:

“While more research is needed to fully understand the role of mechanical deformation in creating these quantum emission sites, we may enable a route to control quantum optical properties by using strain. These single-photon sources form the basis for photonics-based, all-optical quantum computing schemes.”

Scientists at Los Alamos working on quantum single-photon emitters in 2D materials recognize the technology is still in a very early stage. They intend to focus their research on understanding the mechanism responsible for strain fields in 2D materials.

Read More: New Metal Vapor Stabilizing Technique May Boost Quantum Computing

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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