February 8, 2012

Making breakthroughs in quantum computing

Oleg Astafiev, Research Scientist and Principal Researcher

Macroscopic Quantum Coherence Team, RIKEN Advanced Science Institute and NEC

What do you do at RIKEN?

I work on RIKEN projects in the field of quantum computing in the Macroscopic Quantum Coherence Team led by Dr Jaw-Shen Tsai, under the umbrella of the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute. The group is based at the NEC Green Innovation Research Laboratories in Tsukuba, a purpose-built science city about 90km northeast of Tokyo.

How and when did you join RIKEN?

Prior to joining my current group, I was working at Tokyo University in the field of mesoscopic physics with semiconducting quantum dots. Through my research, I encountered the work of RIKEN’s Tsai group, and they were already familiar with my own work at Tokyo University. Due to this prior connection, the transfer from Tokyo University to working for RIKEN at Tsukuba was smooth and natural, and I was able to continue research in quantum mechanics on slightly different systems.

What attracted you to RIKEN?

A key reason for joining RIKEN was because it allows me to pursue my dream of working on superconducting quantum systems. The research environment at RIKEN is of a very high standard and we have everything we need in terms of equipment and facilities to produce excellent results. Furthermore, funding is generous and allows us to procure the latest equipment and support necessary for top-level research. Additionally, working at an internationally renowned institution like RIKEN means that we have frequent opportunities to travel and participate in scientific meetings around the world.

Please tell us about your research at RIKEN.

The Macroscopic Quantum Coherence Team initially worked on the superconductivity of nanostructures, and at the time I joined, the group had just commenced a project on quantum computation. The work is related to very fundamental physics, and it is extremely exciting. The basic element for quantum computers is a quantum bit (qubit) which we fabricate on a micron-to-nanometer size superconducting circuit. In addition to quantum computing, the qubit can be considered as an artificial quantum system or atom. Such artificial quantum systems can be used for many different applications. Particularly, they allow the creation of fully controllable quantum electronics devices with some new properties. We have demonstrated a series of fundamental quantum optical phenomena on the new basis of the artificial atoms. Our results have been recognized by the scientific community and have been published in highly ranked scientific journals such as Nature, Science and Physical Review Letters.

What have been the highlights of your time at RIKEN so far?

I am extremely happy to be working at RIKEN. Discovering fundamentally new things which have never been described before is one of the most exciting parts of scientific work. My work has been twice recognized with awards from RIKEN – once for my studies on the decoherence of qubits, and again for demonstrating the lasing effect on artificial atoms. I am very grateful for this high evaluation of my work.

What would you say to other people considering joining RIKEN?

I would highly recommend RIKEN as a place to work as it offers great opportunities to carry out top-level research. For foreigners, RIKEN offers an excellent chance to participate in science in Japan. The institute also does its best to help foreigners with their daily life and involve them in different cultural activities, which makes life in Japan very interesting and enjoyable.