Building One Molecule from a Reservoir of Two Atoms

April 13, 2018

A single molecule has been produced in an optical tweezer by a controlled reaction between a single sodium and single cesium atom. Inside a glass cell vacuum apparatus, a laser-cooled cloud of sodium atoms is suspended, allowing a microscope to view the fluorescence from individual atoms trapped side-by-side. Credit: Lee Liu and Yu Liu.

In terms of size, it may be the smallest scientific breakthrough ever made at Harvard.

[Graduate student Lee Liu and members of Prof. Kang-Kuen Ni's group] have combined two atoms for the first time into what researchers call a dipolar molecule. The work is described in a new paper published in Science*.

Researchers say the discovery holds great promise for the future of quantum computing, as the dipolar molecule constitutes a new type of qubit, the smallest unit of quantum information, which could lead to more-efficient devices.

"The direction of quantum information processing is one of the things we're excited about," Ni said. "We need molecules for all different applications in our daily lives. However, the molecular space is so huge, we cannot sufficiently explore it with current computers. If we have quantum computers that could potentially solve complex problems and explore molecular space efficiently, the impact will be large."

While developing those molecules—and the computers that could take advantage of them—will demand much more research, the current findings demonstrate a level of precision work not previously achieved...

Read more at "Two atoms combined in dipolar molecule," phys.org, Apr 13, 2018. https://phys.org/news/2018-04-atoms-combined-dipolar-molecule.html#jCp.

*See: L.R. Liu, J.D. Hood, Y. Yu, J.T. Zhang, N.R. Hutzler, T. Rosenband, and K.-K. Ni, "Building one molecule from a reservoir of two atoms," Science (12 Apr 2018) DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7797.