Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have proved, for the first time, that the lifetime of quantum-computing bits can be extended. In their experiment, they showed that by applying specially timed magnetic pulses to qubits, made of beryllium ions, they could prolong the life of the quantum bits from about one millisecond to hundreds of milliseconds. The work is described in this week's Nature.

The realization of a universal quantum computer that can carry out arbitrary computations remains a long term goal. But the technologies developed so far enable us to perform so called quantum simulations. Here assemblies of directly controllable quantum particles form models for complex systems which are difficult to manipulate. A new, promising technique was now developed in the group of Professor Gerhard Rempe at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching.

The intrinsic rotation of electrons - the "spin" - remains unused by modern electronics. If use as an information carrier were possible, the processing power of electronic components would suddenly increase to a multiple of the present capacity. In cooperation with colleagues from Dortmund, St. Petersburg and Washington, Bochum physicists have now succeeded in aligning electron spin, bringing it to a controlled "waver" and reading it out. The electron spin can also be realigned as required at any time using optical pulses.

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Scientists in the UK and US have shown how to increase photovoltaic efficiencies by attaching nanocrystal quantum dots to patterned semiconductor layers. The approach exploits the phenomenon of non-radiative energy transfer and could, say the researchers, lead to a new generation of more efficient solar cells.

Quantum computation was a highly speculative enterprise facing serious technological obstacles until a shy young physicist came along. Dave Bacon tells the story of Alexei Kitaev’s big idea. Read more at PhysicsWorld.

Physicists have teleported quantum information between two atoms separated by a significant distance, for the first time. Until now this feat had only been achieved between photons, and between two nearby atoms through the intermediary action of a third. “Our system has the potential to form the basis for a large-scale ‘quantum repeater’ that can network quantum memories over vast distances” said group leader Christopher Munroe of the University of Maryland.

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Two years ago researchers at Duke University in the US unveiled the first “invisibility cloak” — a device that can make objects vanish from sight, at least when viewed using a narrow band of microwave frequencies. Now, Ulf Leonhardt of St Andrew’s University in the UK and Tomás Tyc of Masaryk University in the Czech Republic have come up with a new way of using mathematics to describe a invisibility cloak (Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1166332).

The entanglement of quantum bits (or qubits) is what should allow quantum computers to perform certain calculations much faster than the computers we use today. But now, physicists in Germany and Canada are saying that most qubits could be “too entangled” to be of any use in quantum computers.