By MARCEL DANÇAO A quantum-mechanical design has been discovered that could improve the performance of the GPS system for autonomous vehicles, a breakthrough that could revolutionize the way cars are driven.
The work was described this week in a paper in the journal Science.
A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Germany and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom created a device that’s smaller than the width of a human hair and able to bend, but has the properties of a quantum superconductor.
They say this could be useful for sensors, superconductors and other electronics.
“This is a very interesting design that can be used for high-performance electronic circuits,” says study co-author Johannes Krause, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Oxford.
“It can be very efficient and, of course, it is very robust.”
“If we can design it better, it could also be used to make better electronics,” Krause adds.
The new device has an array of small, qubit-like qubits that, when combined, can control and tune magnetic fields.
The team’s design was built with graphene nanocrystals, which are an organic semiconductor made from carbon atoms and carbon dioxide molecules.
These materials have a unique structure that allows them to be extremely light and to be formed by laser beams.
But unlike other semiconductors, they lack the ability to carry a magnetic field.
“Graphene nanocrystal is very light and has very high electrical conductivity, which means that it is not a conductor,” Krauses says.
“Graphenium is a conductor, but it has a low electrical conductance and it has very large magnetic fields.”
The new design has two qubits, one in the center of the array and one in one of the edges.
“In a superconducting system, the second qubit is used to control the other two qubit,” Kraus says.
The second qubits are located at different locations on the array.
“In a conventional superconductor, they would be very strong and can be switched off or on,” Krauss says.
But graphene nanotubes have very high mechanical strength.
“That’s one reason why they are very strong,” he says.
The researchers found a way to make graphene nanowires more robust.
They created graphene nanoparticles that are more or less solid with no cracks or holes.
“When you have a lot of defects in one spot, then you have no way of controlling them,” Krails says.
“When you’re making these nanoparticles, you need to find ways to increase the strength,” he adds.
“And by using the ability of graphene nanofluid to form a layer of graphene on top of the solid, we can actually do this,” KraUSE says.
In the study, the researchers found that by using a mixture of nanotube-like material and a chemical called dioxygen, they could increase the amount of material that can form the top of a superconduit, increasing its magnetic field strength.
“It’s amazing,” Kraues says.
In addition to the magnetic field, the material could be used as a sensor.
The superconductive properties of graphene could also allow the device to be used in superconductivity sensors, like the ones used to measure the strength of electrical currents.
“You could use these devices to measure electrical currents and magnetic fields in superconduits,” Krausers says.
That could lead to new ways to make superconductives in materials that are difficult to make at the nanoscale.
The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the European Commission and the German Research Foundation.
More information: “Boron Nanoparticles and their Application to a Superconductive Superconductor” Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1658