London, Mar 6 : A unique discovery by a University of Central Florida professor may lead to a new generation of "Quantum Computers" that will render existing computer and credit card encryption technology obsolete.
UCF Professor Enrique del Barco's observation in his lab has made it possible for him to control quantum tunnelling shifts in nanomagnets, that could further help in creating the quantum logic gates necessary to create quantum computers.
These days, consumers, credit card companies and high-tech firms use cryptography to protect any kind of transmission of sensitive information. Current encryption systems are based on the fact that computers would need thousands of years to factor a large number, making it very difficult to do the same.
But, del Barco's observation may enable the scientists to have a basis to create quantum computers that may easily break the most complicated encryption in a small time.
According to Del Barco, the observation may boost the understanding of quantum tunnelling of nanoscale magnetic systems that may lead to a revolution of sorts in the way we understand computation.
"This is very exciting. When we first observed it, we looked at each other and said, 'That can't be right.' We did it again and again and we achieved the same result every time," Nature Physics quoted del Barco, as saying.
Quantum mechanics say that small magnetic objects called nanomagnets can exist in two distinct states (i.e. North Pole up and North Pole down). And it is possible for them to switch their state through a phenomenon called quantum tunnelling.
Now, the shifting of poles in the nanomagnet leads an abrupt change in its magnetization, and it was possible to observe this change with low-temperature magnetometry techniques used in del Barco's lab.
It was observed that two almost independent halves of a new magnetic molecule can tunnel, or switch poles, promptly under certain conditions. And they seemed to nullify quantum tunnelling in the process.
"It's similar to what can be observed when two rays of light run into interference. Once they run into the interference you can expect darkness," said del Barco.
Controlling quantum tunnelling shifts could help create the quantum logic gates necessary to create quantum computers and it is thought that the spin (magnetic moment) of solid-state devices is the most promising proposals to obtain a practical quantum computer amongst the various existing ones.
"And this is the case of our molecular magnets. Of course, this is far from real life yet, but is an important step in the way. We still must do more research and a lot of people are already trying to figure this out, including us. It's absolutely invigorating," said del Barco.
The observations of del Barco's paper, titled "Quantum Interference of Tunnel Trajectories between States of Different Spin Length in a Dimeric Molecular Nanogmagnet," are documented in the online version of Nature Physics under Advance Online Publication.