Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A Step towards Quantum Supremacy: Mohali’s IISER develops the coldest refrigerator

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali, have used cryogenic technology to achieve a low temperature of 10 milliKelvin or -272.99 degrees Celsius, slightly toasty than the extremely cold world of space where the temperature is as low as 2 milliKelvin (-273.148 degrees Celsius).

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali, have used cryogenic technology to achieve a low temperature of 10 milliKelvin or -272.99 degrees Celsius, slightly toasty than the extremely cold world of space where the temperature is as low as 2 milliKelvin (-273.148 degrees Celsius). To put it more simply, the temperature achieved by the institute is almost 27,000 times lower than that of a home refrigerator and only 0.01 degrees more than the minimum possible temperature that the laws of physics allow. Technically the cryogenic device which is in the spotlight is called a dilution refrigerator. The device showcases a technological advancement for India’s indigenisation.

Dilution Refrigerator: The Technology in Spotlight

In quantum computing, dilution refrigerators are essential for cooling computer chips, photonics and spintronics, the emerging field of nanoscale electronics, condensed matter and nuclear research. This refrigerator is a tool that is used to study experimental quantum physics at extremely low temperatures and the technology uses helium gas in the liquid state.

Apart from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali, the other two institutes that have achieved this feat earlier include the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai.

Minimising temperatures – A key to exploring Quantum World

Using the ideas of quantum mechanics, the fundamental theory in physics provides a description of the physical properties of objects at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles, which cannot be perceived by common sense. However, when investigating quantum effects, the quantum signal in experiments is so small that it usually hides in the background of thermal vibrations and remains undetectable. Hence, minimising temperature is the key to exploring the quantum world.

The feat achieved by the institute will help in the study of quantum computers which are expected to be far more powerful than the supercomputers or the workstations placed in use. The dilution refrigerator will be put in use for testing superconducting quantum bits, the key ingredients of a quantum computer.

Understanding Quantum Computers

Harnessing the phenomena of quantum mechanics, Quantum computing is a leap forward to solve complex problems that today’s most powerful computers cannot solve and will not be able to solve in future. It would not be wrong to say that for some complex problems, supercomputers aren’t that super.

Why are Quantum Computers considered fast?

To represent complex and large problems, Quantum computers are able to create vast multidimensional spaces which classical supercomputers are unable to do. Put simply, Algorithms that employ quantum wave interference are used to find solutions in this vast multidimensional space and translate them back into forms that are understandable by the scientists which allow them to tackle and solve problems. Quantum computing depends on bits that have properties of quantum physics which are known as qubits.

Traditional computing bits are either “0” or “1,” but qubits can be in both states simultaneously, which is a quantum property represented as superposition.

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