Nanotube vibration could act as data storage

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A study by physicists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) has shown how nanotubes can store information in the form of vibrations.

Up to now, researchers have experimented primarily with electrically charged particles. Nanomechanical devices, however, are not charged and much less sensitive to electrical interference.

Using quantum mechanical phenomena, computers could be much more powerful than their digital predecessors and scientists are working to explore the basis for quantum computing.

To date most systems are based on electrically charged particles that are held in an electromagnetic trap.

A disadvantage of these systems is that they are very sensitive to electromagnetic interference and need extensive shielding.

Physicists at TUM have now found a way for information to be stored and quantum mechanically processed in mechanical vibrations.

According to TUM, a carbon nanotube that is clamped at both ends can be excited to oscillate.

‘One would expect that such a system would be strongly damped, and that the vibration would subside quickly,’ said Simon Rips, first author of a paper on the research published in Physical Review Letters. ‘In fact, the string vibrates more than a million times. The information is thus retained up to one second. That is long enough to work with.’

Since such a string oscillates among many physically equivalent states, the physicists placed an electric field in the vicinity of the nanotube to ensure that two of these states can be selectively addressed. The information can then be written and read optoelectronically.

‘Our concept is based on available technology,’ said Michael Hartmann, head of the Emmy Noether research group Quantum Optics and Quantum Dynamics at the TU Muenchen. ‘It could take us a step closer to the realisation of a quantum computer.’