The new superconducting diode could improve the performance of quantum computers and artificial intelligence

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A team led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities has developed a more energy-efficient tunable superconducting diode, a promising component for future electronic devices that could help scale quantum computers for industry and improve systems intelligence artificial. Credit: University of Minnesota Twin Cities

A team led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities has developed a new superconducting diode, a key component in electronic devices, that could help scale quantum computers for industrial use and improve the performance of artificial intelligence systems. Compared to other superconducting diodes, the researchers’ device is more energy efficient; can process multiple electrical signals at a time; and contains a series of gates to control the flow of energy, a feature that has never before been integrated into a superconducting diode.

The document is published in Nature communications.

A diode allows current to flow one way but not the other in an electrical circuit. It’s essentially half of a transistor, the main building block in computer chips. Diodes are typically made with semiconductors, but researchers are interested in making them with superconductors, which have the ability to transfer energy without losing power along the way.

“We want to make computers more powerful, but there are some hard limits that we will soon reach with our current materials and manufacturing methods,” said Vlad Pribiag, the paper’s senior author and an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy. “We need new ways to develop computers, and one of the biggest challenges to increasing computing power right now is that they dissipate so much energy. So, we’re thinking about ways superconducting technologies could help with that.”

University of Minnesota researchers created the device using three Josephson junctions, made by inserting pieces of non-superconducting material between the superconductors. In this case, the researchers connected the superconductors with semiconductor layers. The device’s unique design allows researchers to use voltage to control the device’s behavior.

Their device also has the ability to process multiple signal inputs, whereas typical diodes can only handle one input and one output. This feature could have applications in neuromorphic computing, a method of engineering electrical circuits to mimic the way neurons work in the brain to improve the performance of artificial intelligence systems.

“The device we have built is close to the highest energy efficiency that has ever been demonstrated and, for the first time, we have demonstrated that it is possible to add gates and apply electric fields to regulate this effect,” explained Mohit Gupta, first author of the study. article and a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy. ‘Other researchers have made superconducting devices before, but the materials they used have been very difficult to fabricate. Our design uses materials that are more suitable for industry and offer new functionalities.’

The method used by the researchers can, in principle, be used with any type of superconductor, making it more versatile and easier to use than other techniques in the field. Thanks to these qualities, their device is more compatible for industrial applications and could help scale the development of quantum computers to wider use.

“Right now, all the quantum computing machines out there are very basic to the needs of real-world applications,” Pribiag said. ‚ÄúScaling is necessary to have a computer powerful enough to tackle useful and complex problems. Many people are researching algorithms and use cases for computers or artificial intelligence machines that could potentially surpass classical computers. Here, we are developing the hardware that it could allow quantum computers to implement these algorithms. This demonstrates the power of universities seeding these ideas that eventually make their way into industry and are integrated into practical machines.”

In addition to Pribiag and Gupta, the research team included University of Minnesota physics and astronomy graduate student Gino Graziano and University of California, Santa Barbara researchers Mihir Pendharkar, Jason Dong, Connor Dempsey, and Chris Palmstrm.

More information:
Mohit Gupta et al, Gate Tunable Superconducting Diode Effect in a Three Terminal Josephson Device, Nature communications (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-38856-0

About the magazine:
Nature communications

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