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Materials challenges for trapped-ion quantum computers


Trapped-ion quantum information processors store information in atomic ions maintained in position in free space by electric fields. Quantum logic is enacted through manipulation of the ions’ internal and shared motional quantum states using optical and microwave signals. Although trapped ions show great promise for quantum-enhanced computation, sensing and communication, materials research is needed to design traps that allow for improved performance by means of integration of system components, including optics and electronics for ion-qubit control, while minimizing the near-ubiquitous electric-field noise produced by trap-electrode surfaces. In this Review, we consider the materials requirements for such integrated systems, with a focus on problems that hinder current progress towards practical quantum computation. We give suggestions for how materials scientists and trapped-ion technologists can work together to develop materials-based integration and noise-mitigation strategies to enable the next generation of trapped-ion quantum computers.

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Fig. 1: Quantum computing with trapped ions.
Fig. 2: Integrated materials for control of trapped-ion quantum information processing systems.
Fig. 3: Measurements of electric-field noise.
Fig. 4: Effect of ion-milling treatment.
Fig. 5: Material dependence of the surface-electric-field noise.
Fig. 6: Composition–morphology space for trap-electrode material surfaces.
Fig. 7: Interconnected fields of study for trapped-ion materials science.


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The authors thank M. Kuzyk for assistance with Fig. 1. K.R.B. and H.H. acknowledge support from the US National Science Foundation STAQ project Phy-1818914. This material is based on work supported by the US Department of Defense under Air Force Contract No. FA8702-15-D-0001. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense.

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The authors contributed equally to all aspects of the article.

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Correspondence to Kenneth R. Brown.

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K.R.B. is a scientific adviser for IonQ, Inc., and has a personal financial interest in the company.

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Nature Reviews Materials thanks Roee Ozeri, Jonathan Home and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Brown, K.R., Chiaverini, J., Sage, J.M. et al. Materials challenges for trapped-ion quantum computers. Nat Rev Mater (2021).

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