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February 7, 2017

Iconic topological object trefoil knot

In this rendering, a trefoil knot, an iconic topological object, is shown coming out of a tunnel with an image of superconducting qubit chips reflected on its surface.

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Starting early this century, scientists have been working hard to exploit the strangeness of quantum mechanics and make a quantum computer. The superior computational processing power of quantum bits (qubits) is poised to have revolutionary impacts on diverse fields ranging from chemistry to economics. In the race to find a reliable platform for making quantum computers, superconducting qubits are among the leading ones.

In 2014, scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in collaboration with Boston University, used one of these chips to study quantum topology and showed how superconducting qubits can help to make topological concepts tangible. Topology, in spite of its abstract mathematical constructs, often manifests itself in physics and has a pivotal role in the understanding of natural phenomena. Notably, the discovery of topological phases in condensed-matter systems has changed the modern conception of phases of matter. In their research, the scientists found a novel method to directly measure topological properties of quantum systems. [This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (grants DMR 0907039 and DMR 1029764).]

To learn more about this research, see the UC Santa Barbara news story A piece of the quantum puzzle. (Date image taken: February 2014; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: Feb. 7, 2017)

Credit: P. Roushan\Martinis lab\UC Santa Barbara

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