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Alex Lang: Research Proposal Quantum computers have rapidly progressed from a figment of the imagination to actual working

prototypes. In only a few years, demonstration NMR quantum computers expanded from consisting of only one or two qubits and a few quantum gates to eight or more qubits with hundreds of gates [1]. However, researchers learned that NMR prototypes were fundamentally unscalable, so the researchers switched focus to exploring new architectures that could more easily lead to a full-scale quantum computer. Despite remarkable experimental breakthroughs to produce the leading prototypes, serious gaps in theoretical understandings remain. One such issue is decoherence, or the evolution of a qubit from a quantum to classical entity due to interactions with the environment. This decoherence is undesirable since the advantages of quantum computers depend on the unusual quantum properties of qubits. Significant progress can and has been made in quantum computing with a murky understanding of decoherence, but the scaling up from a handful of qubits to the hundreds or thousands of qubits required for a working quantum computer will demand a detailed model of decoherence [2]. While experimental researchers can heuristically work to reduce decoherence in their specific architectures, a better theoretical understanding of decoherence would directly lead to an easily extendable, systematic approach to assist researchers working on the scalability of any possible implementation of quantum computers. In addition to helping make a quantum computer a reality, a better understanding of decoherence will help answer fundamental questions in the foundations of quantum mechanics, such as how the transition from the quantum regime to classical regime occurs. Decoherence theory has matured from a side issue into a field of its own in the last several decades [3]. Rather than attempting to study decoherence in general, I want to focus on the realistic goal of understanding the role decoherence plays on several qubits, a useful topic due to its application to ongoing experiments. To understand decoherence, I am currently working on the effect of different types of noise on qubit decoherence. My initial research for my senior honor thesis with Professor Robert Joynt (see Previous Research essay) has focused on discovering the effect of telegraph noise on qubits. Our research on random telegraph noise has culminated in a paper submission [4] and now we are focusing on extending our research to broad-spectrum (1/f) noise. This type of noise is ubiquitous in all qubit architechtures, and in some, like superconducting qubits, it can be the dominant noise type. An interesting result of our current work is the discovery of entanglement sudden death (ESD) when a qubit is subject to random telegraph noise. Since Yu and Eberly first suggested the possibility of ESD, it has been observed in the laboratory along with other related phenomena such as entanglement rebirth [5]. One would expect that the correlation, or entanglement, of qubits subject to noise would decay exponentially and only asymptotically approach zero. Instead, the entanglement of two qubits can exactly equal zero within a finite time, which is called ESD. Even more exciting is entanglement rebirth or resurrection. In this case, the entanglement of two qubits decays to zero and then remains zero for some time before the qubits become entangled again. ESD and entanglement rebirth open up new possibilities for manipulating decoherence, but also serve to reinforce that there is much to learn about decoherence. While my senior honor thesis is addressing some key aspects of quantum decoherence, much more work will be needed to understand the scalability of qubits. I plan to continue researching decoherence in graduate school by focusing on understanding ESD. Since ESD is a

novel phenomena, enhancing our understanding of ESD could significantly alter how we perceive decoherence. I am excited to continue my research as I pursue a Ph.D. at my preferred graduate school, MIT. There are several excellent advisors who could guide me on my quest to extend our understanding of decoherence. Last summer I had the opportunity to attend the Quantum Information Science for Undergraduates (QUISU) summer program at MIT. While there, I attended lectures on the fundamentals of quantum information science by leaders in the field such as Professors Seth Lloyd, Isaac Chuang, Jeffrey Shapiro, and Scott Aaronson. Besides being a wonderful learning experience, this allowed me to talk in person with potential advisors to see if we share similar research interests. I was excited to find that Professor Seth Lloyd and Professor Isaac Chuang both have ongoing research that mesh well with my strengths and interests. Professor Lloyd has diverse research projects, but his central goal is to relate quantum information science to the foundations of physics. In particular, Professor Lloyd is currently studying the fundamental limitations decoherence places on the scalability of qubits, regardless of specific implementation. Professor Lloyd also seemed intrigued to investigate whether ESD is a hindrance or resource for quantum computing. My other potential advisor, Professor Chuang, is interested in the role decoherence plays in multiple qubits. His emphasis is currently on the trapped ion designs of quantum computers, but he is working to determine which qubit design will prove to be most scalable. Professor Chuang is currently skeptical of the potential for ESD in working qubits, so my theoretical background could be very useful for guiding his experimental research. After the initial experimental success, the path to a fully functioning, scalable, quantum computer appears to be long and rough. However, key theoretical insights could smooth this path. The understanding of quantum decoherence is crucial to the scalability of qubits. During the investigation of decoherence, strange new phenomena such as entanglement sudden death have emerged; few would have guessed that a qubit could disentangle and then later reentangle. More research needs to be done to understand if the new phenomena like ESD are just interesting side paths or if they could be used to the advantage of researchers. The great benefit of working toward a quantum computer is during the journey we will be expanding the knowledge of decoherence, a concept fundamental to the foundations of quantum mechanics. Being awarded the NSF graduate fellowship would provide a great boost to my career. I would be honored for its recognition of my potential, but I would most excited that I could engage in world renowned research at MIT starting immediately in my first year of graduate school. I am confident that this extra research will make it easier for me to have a long and successful career in research. References: [1] Isaac Chuang, Implementations, Part 1: NMR, presented at Quantum Information Science for Undergraduates (QUISU), MIT, Boston, MA, June 16, 2009 (unpublished). [2] W. Dur and H. J. Briegel, Stability of Macroscopic Entanglement under Decoherence, Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 180403, 2004. [3] W. H. Zurek, Decoherence, einselection, and the quantum origins of the classical, Rev. Mod. Phys., 75, 715-775, July 2003. [4] Dong Zhou, Robert Joynt and Alex Lang, Disentanglement and decoherence from classical non-Markovian noise: Random telegraph noise, (submitted to Phys. Rev. Lett.). [5] T. Yu and J.H. Eberly, Sudden Death of Entanglement, Science 323, 598, 2009.