Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created networks of tiny clumps of atoms known as quantum dots and studied what happens when electrons dive into an archipelago of atomic islands. Measuring the behavior of electrons in these relatively simple settings promises profound insights into how electrons behave in complex real-world materials and can help researchers engineer devices that make possible powerful quantum computers and other innovative technologies.
In the work published in nature connections, The researchers made several 3 by 3 grids of precisely spaced quantum dots, each consisting of one to three phosphorus atoms. Electrical wires and other components were connected to grids that enabled electrons to flow through. The grids provided playgrounds where electrons could behave in near-perfect, textbook-like conditions, devoid of the confounding influences of real-world materials.
The researchers injected electrons into the networks and observed how they behaved as the researchers changed conditions such as the spacing between the dots. For networks where the points were close together, the electrons tended to spread out and act like waves, essentially being in several places at once. When the points are far apart, they are sometimes confined to individual points, such as electrons in materials with insulating properties.
Advanced versions of the network will allow researchers to study the behavior of electrons in controllable environments with a level of detail that is impossible for the world’s most powerful conventional computers to accurately simulate. It will open the door to full-fledged “analog quantum simulators” that reveal the secrets of exotic materials such as high-temperature superconductors. It could also provide hints about how materials, such as topological insulators, can be created by controlling quantum dot matrix geometry.
In a related work just published in nano acs, The same NIST researchers have improved their fabrication method so that they can now reliably create a set of identical, evenly spaced dots with exactly one atom, resulting in more perfect environments needed for perfectly accurate quantum simulations. The researchers set their sights on making such a simulator with an even larger grid of quantum dots: A 5 by 5 array of dots can produce rich electronic behavior impossible to simulate even in the most advanced supercomputers.
Materials Introduction of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Content can be modified by style and length.