Scientists find flaw in quantum dot construction

February 10, 2005

ATHENS, Ohio - Nanoscientists dream of developing a quantum computer, a device the size of a grain of sand that could be faster and more powerful than today's PCs. They've identified tiny artificial atoms - called "quantum dots" - as the most likely materials to build these machines, but have been puzzled by the dots' unpredictable behavior at the nanoscale.

Now a team of Ohio University physicists thinks it's found the problem - and has proposed a blueprint for building a better quantum dot. The researchers, who published their findings in this week's issue of Physical Review Letters, argue that defects formed during creation of the quantum dots operate as a barrier to scientific experimentation.

Experimental scientists in Germany had blasted the quantum dots with light to create the quantum mechanical state needed to run a quantum computer. But they couldn't consistently control that state, explained Sergio Ulloa, an Ohio University professor of physics and astronomy. Jose Villas-Boas, a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio University, Ulloa and Associate Professor Alexander Govorov developed theoretical models to learn what went wrong.

The problem, they argued, happens during the creation of the type of quantum dots under study. Using a molecular beam epitaxy chamber, scientists spray paint a surface with atoms under high temperatures, creating an atomic coating. As more layers are added, the quantum dots bead up on the surface like droplets of water, Ulloa said. But a fine residue left behind on the surface that Ulloa calls the "wetting layer" can cause problems during experiments. When experimental scientists blasted the quantum dots with a beam of light in previous studies, the wetting layer caused interference, instead of allowing the light to enter the dot and trigger the quantum state, he explained.

The study suggests that scientists could tweak the process by re-focusing the beam of light or changing the duration of the light pulses to negate the effects of the wetting layer, Villas-Boas said. One experimental physicist already has used the theoretical finding to successfully manipulate a quantum dot in the lab, he added. "Now that they know the problem, they realize there are a few ways to avoid it," Villas-Boas said.

The new finding ultimately could lead to the creation of a better quantum dot and can help scientists understand more about quantum states, Ulloa added. "It's one more step towards the holy grail of finding a better quantum bit, which hopefully will lead to a quantum computer," he said.

Nanoscientists are creating quantum dots in many different ways, Ulloa noted, for use in various applications. The self-assembled type under study could be used in optical electronics and quantum computers. Other types, such as dots grown in a solution, might be used for solar energy applications.

The study also will help the Ohio University team better understand how to control the spin of electrons - a property that could be the underlying mechanism behind faster, more efficient future electronic devices, he added.
The research was supported by grants from the Department of Energy, the Indiana 21st Century Fund, the Ohio University Postdoctoral Fellow Program, and the FAPESP fellowship. The researchers are members of Ohio University's Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute,

Attention Reporters, Editors: An illustration of the quantum dot can be viewed on the Web at:
For a copy of the paper on which this story is based, visit the Physical Review Letters Web site at or contact either the authors below or Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166,

Contacts: Jose Villas-Boas, (740) 593-9611,; Sergio Ulloa, (740) 593-1729,

Written by Andrea Gibson

Ohio University

Related Quantum Dots Articles from Brightsurf:

Direct visualization of quantum dots reveals shape of quantum wave function
Trapping and controlling electrons in bilayer graphene quantum dots yields a promising platform for quantum information technologies.

Scientists age quantum dots in a test tube
Researchers from MIPT and the RAS Institute of Problems of Chemical Physics have proposed a simple and convenient way to obtain arbitrarily sized quantum dots required for physical experiments via chemical aging.

'Growing' active sites on quantum dots for robust H2 photogeneration
Chinese researchers had achieved site- and spatial- selective integration of earth-abundant metal ions in semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) for efficient and robust photocatalytic H2 evolution from water.

New insights into the energy levels in quantum dots
Researchers from Basel, Bochum and Copenhagen have gained new insights into the energy states of quantum dots.

What a pair! Coupled quantum dots may offer a new way to store quantum information
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues have for the first time created and imaged a novel pair of quantum dots -- tiny islands of confined electric charge that act like interacting artificial atoms.

Spinning quantum dots
A new paper in EPJ B presents a theoretical analysis of electron spins in moving semiconductor quantum dots, showing how these can be controlled by electric fields in a way that suggests they may be usable as information storage and processing components of quantum computers.

Controlling the charge state of organic molecule quantum dots in a 2D nanoarray
Australian researchers have fabricated a self-assembled, carbon-based nanofilm where the charge state (ie, electronically neutral or positive) can be controlled at the level of individual molecules.

Modified quantum dots capture more energy from light and lose less to heat
Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have synthesized magnetically-doped quantum dots that capture the kinetic energy of electrons created by ultraviolet light before it's wasted as heat.

Using quantum dots and a smartphone to find killer bacteria
A combination of off-the-shelf quantum dot nanotechnology and a smartphone camera soon could allow doctors to identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria in just 40 minutes, potentially saving patient lives.

Synthesizing single-crystalline hexagonal graphene quantum dots
A KAIST team has designed a novel strategy for synthesizing single-crystalline graphene quantum dots, which emit stable blue light.

Read More: Quantum Dots News and Quantum Dots Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to