April 20, 2022
News Release

Lasers Align Electron Spin Behavior in Quantum Materials

The discovery could help researchers form qubits—the basic unit of a quantum computer

cartoon of quantum materials

A cartoon depiction of the light-induced ferromagnetism that the researchers observed in ultrathin sheets of tungsten diselenide and tungsten disulfide.

(Image by Xi Wang | University of Washington)

Researchers have discovered that lightin the form of a lasercan align electron spins, creating a platform that could have applications in the field of quantum simulation, according to study co-senior author Xiaodong Xu, a Boeing Distinguished Professor at the University of Washington in the Department of Physics and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and dual appointee at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Xu led an international research team that also included UW professors Di Xiao, a professor of physics and of materials science and engineering who also holds a joint appointment at PNNL, and Daniel Gamelin, a professor of chemistry and director of the Molecular Engineering Materials Center.

The research appeared April 20 in the journal Nature.

“In this system, we can use photons essentially to control the ‘ground state’ propertiessuch as magnetismof charges trapped within the semiconductor material,” said Xu, who is also a faculty researcher with the UW’s Clean Energy Institute and the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute. “This is a necessary level of control for developing certain types of qubitsor ‘quantum bits’for quantum computing and other applications.”

The research was funded by the Department of Energy Office of Science; the U.S. Army Research Office; the National Science Foundation; the Croucher Foundation; the University Grant Committee/Research Grants Council of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; the Japan Science and Technology Agency; the state of Washington; and the UW.

[Read the full news release]

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Published: April 20, 2022