Princeton University researchers have built a rice grain-sized laser powered by single electrons tunneling through artificial atoms known as quantum dots. The tiny microwave laser, or “maser,” is a demonstration of the fundamental interactions between light and moving electrons.
The researchers built the device — which uses about one-billionth the electric current needed to power a hair dryer — while exploring how to use quantum dots, which are bits of semiconductor material that act like single atoms, as components for quantum computers.
“It is basically as small as you can go with these single-electron devices,” said Jason Petta, an associate professor of physics at Princeton who led the study, which was published in the journal Science.
The device demonstrates a major step forward for efforts to build quantum-computing systems out of semiconductor materials, according to co-author and collaborator Jacob Taylor, an adjunct assistant professor at the Joint Quantum Institute, University of Maryland-National Institute of Standards and Technology. “I consider this to be a really important result for our long-term goal, which is entanglement between quantum bits in semiconductor-based devices,” Taylor said.
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