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Diamonds bring quantum networks one step closer to reality

Scientists recently achieved a significant breakthrough in the field of quantum network engineering, thanks to researchers from the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and Cambridge University.

This advancement centers around the innovative manipulation of diamond thin films, leading to the creation of more manageable quantum bits (qubits).

Promise and challenges of quantum bits

The team’s technique significantly elevates the operating temperature of quantum systems, reducing the resources required for their operation.

Alex High of the University of Chicago, who spearheaded the study, expressed that this method greatly eases the control of qubits.

“This technique lets you dramatically raise the operating temperature of these systems, to the point where it’s much less resource-intensive to operate them,” High explained.

These findings have the potential to make quantum networks more feasible in the near future.

Current state of quantum infrastructure

Qubits are pivotal in the evolution of computing networks due to their unique properties, such as near-immunity to hacking. However, implementing them in widespread technology presents challenges.

One major issue is the sensitivity of qubits to heat and vibrations, necessitating extremely low operational temperatures.

“Most qubits today require a special fridge the size of a room and a team of highly trained people to run it, so if you’re picturing an industrial quantum network where you’d have to build one every 5 or 10 kilometers, now you’re talking about quite a bit of infrastructure and labor,” said High. 

Building quantum networks with diamonds

High’s team, in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, focused on enhancing the material properties of qubits.

Group IV color centers in diamonds, a promising type of qubit, are notable for maintaining quantum entanglement over long periods. However, they require cooling to near absolute zero.

The team’s ingenius approach involved ‘stretching’ the diamond’s atomic structure. They achieved this by laying a thin film of diamond over hot glass.

As the glass cools, it contracts more slowly than the diamond, stretching the diamond on a molecular level.

This is analogous to how pavement expands or contracts with the temperature changes of the earth beneath it.

Current and future implications

“The potential for quantum-based information technologies is high,” said Tom Kuech, a program director in NSF’s Directorate for Engineering.

“This project is part of NSF’s continuing efforts to provide the underpinning research into the manufacturing science needed to make these approaches a technological reality.”

In summary, this innovate collaborative research represents a significant leap forward in quantum network engineering.

By ingeniously ‘stretching’ diamond films to create more manageable qubits, the team has effectively addressed one of the major barriers in quantum computing: the need for extensive cooling infrastructure.

This solution simplifies the control and operation of quantum bits for more practical and accessible quantum networks, bringing us closer to harnessing the full potential of quantum technologies in various fields.

The full study was published in the journal Physical Review X.


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