David Moore, a Wright Lab assistant professor, and three colleagues from other institutions recently proposed a novel idea of using trapped electrons and ions—technologies that are being developed as qubits for quantum computation—as ultra-sensitive particle detectors that could help researchers better understand the nature of dark matter, neutrinos, new forces, and more

Ions and electrons, which are trapped charged particles, are among the most researched systems for constructing quantum computers (in parallel with superconducting qubits, which are under development at the Yale Quantum Institute).

Moore and associates note out in a “Editor’s recommendation” published in Physical Review Letters (PRL) that these systems’ exceptional sensitivity can also be utilized to discover extremely weakly interacting particles like dark matter. The capacity to detect far lower energy depositions than typical charged particle detectors would be a fundamental benefit of the idea.

Other fundamental physics applications discussed in the paper include possible measurements of charged particles emitted by beta decay, which the Project 8 collaboration (led by Yale’s Karsten Heeger, professor of physics and director of Wright Lab) is developing new techniques to measure in order to better understand the mysterious neutrino’s nature.

These findings might one day be used to quantum computers, as charged particles generated by natural radiation could disrupt qubits in vast arrays at random. The report looks at how low-background physics approaches developed by Wright Lab researchers might help solve this difficulty and potentially be employed in ion-based quantum computers.

Daniel Carney (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Hartmut Häffner (University of California, Berkeley), and Jacob M. Taylor (University of California, Berkeley) are the other authors of the study, in addition to Moore (Joint Quantum Institute, National Institute of Standards and Technology and Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, University of Maryland, College Park).

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