A region of a diamond was blasted by the scientists which contained a nitrogen atom with repeated, quick pulses of a laser beam. The blasting allowed the scientists to control the quantum state of the area as well as observe the electron state of a single electron.
"These defects have garnered great interest over the past decade, providing a test-bed system for developing semiconductor quantum bits as well as nanoscale sensors," said team leader David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at University of Chicago in a statement. "Here, we were able to harness light to completely control the quantum state of this defect at extremely high speeds."
The discovery will change the face of quantum computing. We know that computing currently has been restricted to a binary system, where information can be either classified as a 'yes' or 'no', or 0 and 1. But this concept neglects the fact that information is usually that in a more complex, quantum state.
"It's quite a versatile technique, providing a full picture of the excited state of the quantum defect," said F. Joseph Heremans, a University of Chicago postdoctoral scholar, and co-lead author on the paper, in a statement. "Previous work on the nitrogen-vacancy center has hinted at some of these processes, but here, simply through the application of these ultrafast pulses, we get a much richer understanding of this quantum beast."
The researchers claimed that the use of quantum computing technologies would allow computers to process new information at a rapid pace. "You only have to be able to use light to transfer an electron between a ground state and an excited state," said Awschalom.