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Harvard researchers control sound waves on a computer chip

Harvard researchers controlled and modulated acoustic waves, or sound waves, using the electric field of a computer chip for the first time, a press statement revealed.

The new breakthrough could have many implications for the field of quantum computing as well as classical computing, which often relies on data transmitted using electrons.

Harvard researchers have created a new sound wave chip

Typically, classical computer chips transmit and process data by modulating electrons. This is done by transistors that encode the data into the computer language in ones and zeroes – one represented by the high current and the other by the low current.

Photonic chips, on the other hand, modulate photons-light particles-before they are transmitted through components called waveguides that transmit the data. The Harvard team’s sound wave chip works much like the photonic chip, though it adds a few extra benefits to the mix.

Acoustic waves are slower than electromagnetic waves of the same frequency. But that’s not a bad thing, according to the team behind the new device. That’s because short acoustic waves are easily confined to nanoscale structures and they have a strong interaction with the system in which they are confined. This makes them very valuable for classical and quantum applications.

“Acoustic waves promise as on-chip information carriers for quantum and classical information processing but the development of acoustic integrated circuits is hampered by the inability to control acoustic waves in a low-loss, scalable manner,” he said. Marko LoncarTiantsai Lin Professor of Electrical Engineering at SEAS and senior author of a new study published in Nature Electronics.

“In this work, we show that we can control acoustic waves on an integrated lithium niobate platform, bringing us one step closer to an acoustic integrated circuit.”

Acoustic waves for quantum and classical computing

Loncar and his colleagues used lithium niobate to build an on-chip, electro-acoustic modulator that controls the chip’s acoustic waves. The modulator uses an electric field to control the phase, amplitude, and frequency of the sound waves.

“This work is evolving using acoustic waves for quantum and classical computing,” said Linbo Shao, a former graduate student and postdoctoral fellow at SEAS, and first author of the paper.

“The past acoustic devices were passive but now we have electrical modulation to actively tune acoustic devices,” he continued, “which will enable many tools in the future development of microwave signal processing using these types of acoustic devices. “

Researchers also seek to create more complex, large acoustic-wave circuits and quantum systems. According to Shao, the team’s work “paves the way for high-performance acoustic-wave based devices and circuits for next-generation microwave signal processing as well as on-chip quantum networks and devices. interface that connects different types of quantum systems. ”

Even if that’s a mouthful, it can all prove beneficial more quickly than expected. Earlier this month, Sydney -based company Silicon Quantum Computing built the first integrated silicon quantum computer circuit made at the atomic scale. Shortly after its opening, the company’s founder and director, Michelle Simmon, said commercial quantum computing products could be about five years away. Even if that’s not really a guarantee, we’re undoubtedly on the cusp of the much-hyped quantum computing revolution.

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