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Scientists Manipulate 2 Atoms Into 1 Molecule In Breakthrough Step Toward The Future Of Quantum Computing

A team of scientists manipulated two atoms into one molecule whereas previous similar experiments had only achieved by combining a cluster of atoms. The breakthrough achievement became the most precisely controlled chemical reaction to date.

  ( Ethan Miller | Getty Images )

In a world's first, scientists are able to control a chemical reaction that precisely transforms two atoms into a single molecule.

Using laser tweezers, a team of Harvard University scientist nudges one sodium and one cesium together to form a molecule. The achievement is particularly exceptional because these two elements would not normally form a molecule.

The combination of the two atoms remarkably resulted in an alloy-like molecule. Most especially of all, however, it becomes a material that can advance the use of quantum computing.

As a rule, molecules are only made when numerous atoms are bonded together during a chemical reaction. In the past, chemists were only able to create molecules after marrying clusters of atoms.

However, Kang-Kuen Ni, an assistant professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Harvard, and his colleagues have disrupted it by using the laser stimulus as the main mechanism for the chemical reaction to take place.

Atom Structure

In conducting the experiment, the team had cooled the sodium and cesium to extremely low temperatures where new quantum phases of gas, liquid, and solid emerged in other similar trials. The scientists then captured the atoms by using the laser tweezers and merged them through a process they called "optical dipole trap."

At this stage, the laser beams stimulated the two atoms. Once stimulated, they created a molecule, which the scientists identified as "dipolar molecule."

"What we have done differently is to create more control over it (chemical reaction)... The whole process is happening in an ultra-high vacuum with very low density," Ni says in the paper published in Science.

The Future Of Quantum Computing

Ni explains that their discovery contributes greatly to the advancement of quantum computing because the dipolar molecule also introduces a new type of "qubit," which is the smallest quantum information. This result has become their ultimate achievement from the experiment.

"...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," says Ni.

Quantum computing may one day lead to revolutionary breakthroughs in the different field of studies. It can design complex systems, which include artificial intelligence. It can also solve molecular and chemical reactions that may lead to the discovery of new medicines.

Computer manufacturing company IBM anticipates as well that quantum computing will be integral in the financial industry by isolating global risks that may impact investments.

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