Particle physics laboratory

Using qubits to search for dark matter

Wright Lab assistant professor David Moore, along with three colleagues from other institutions, recently came up with a new idea to use trapped electrons and ions – technologies that are developed as qubits for quantum computing – as detectors of ultra-sensitive particles that might be able to improve the search for the nature of dark matter, neutrinos, new forces, etc.

Trapped charged particles, like ions or electrons, are among the most studied systems to develop quantum computers (in parallel with superconducting qubits, which are being developed at Yale Quantum Institute).

In a “Editor’s suggestion” published in Physical examination letters (PRL), Moore and colleagues point out that the exquisite sensitivity of these systems can also be used to detect extremely weakly interacting particles, such as dark matter. A key advantage of the proposal would be the ability to detect much weaker energy deposits than traditional charged particle detectors.

Other applications to fundamental physics explored in the article include possible measurements of the charged particles emitted by beta decay, which Project 8 the collaboration (with the Yale effort led by Karsten Heeger, professor of physics and director of the Wright Lab) is also developing new measurement techniques to better understand the nature of the mysterious neutrino.

These findings could potentially also have practical applications in quantum computers, as charged particles emitted by natural radiation could randomly scramble qubits in large arrays. The article investigates how low background physics techniques used by Wright Lab researchers could provide a solution to this problem and possibly be used in ion-based quantum computers.

Besides Moore, the other authors of the article are Daniel Carney (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Hartmut Häffner (University of California, Berkeley) and Jacob M. Taylor (Joint Quantum Institute, National Institute of Standards and Technology and Joint Center for ‘Quantum Information and Computing, University of Maryland, College Park).

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