“Our N@C60 fullerene molecules have a nitrogen atom in their very centre with a nuclear spin and an electron spin. We want to use both spins to store quantum information as they can each point up or down. Then each molecule will be a quantum computer with two qubits.”
The researchers needed to have both of the spins in the molecule pointing up at the beginning of the quantum computation. They made the electron spin point up by using a strong magnetic field over 150,000 times the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, (8.6 tesla) and a low temperature (–270°Celsius or 3° kelvin), but still the nuclear spin had about a fifty-fifty chance of pointing up or down.
“We used the fact that the electron was already pointing up to make the nuclear spin do the same,” said Morley. “This increased the number of useful molecules by over one thousand times.”
This technique has drawn great interest from scientists working on nuclear magnetic resonance, because one thousand times more useful molecules could greatly shorten the time it takes to perform an NMR experiment.