One big problem holding up the development of quantum computing is building materials. But there might be a solution, and it awesomely involves nitrogen-infused diamond nanocrystals.

Quantum computers theoretically work by using qubits (short for quantum bits), which can rely on quantum mechanical principles to hold multiple values simultaneously. This ability makes quantum computers unimaginably faster than their silicon counterparts when dealing with certain types of problems. Unfortunately, the only candidates from which to make qubits, like individual atoms and semiconducting quantum dots, require temperatures far below zero in order to work.

There might now be a room temperature solution, according to a team of scientists at China's Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the University of Science and Technology of China. They say that something called diamond nitrogen vacancy materials, or NV materials, could do the job.


To create such a material, you first need to make an extremely fine diamond film - essentially, a super small diamond crystal - with a "molecule" at its center. This molecule is composed of a nitrogen atom and a vacancy, a region within the crystal where there are no atoms at all. This arrangement could then function as a qubit, allowing for information to exist in superpositions and signal the dawn of quantum computing.

The real difficulty would be coupling the diamond-NV centers together, a process that would require multiple acts of quantum entanglement. Indeed, a huge number of these NV materials would need to be brought together to achieve the complexity of something like a quantum computer, and that represents a major challenge. Still, it's exciting that this is within the realm of current science at all, and it's a breakthrough just to reduce the problem from theoretical impossibility to practical nightmare.


[Applied Physics Letters]