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Sep. 27, 2021

Floating quantum ideas

Erika Kawakami, Team Leader

Please describe your role.

I lead a team that aims to realize quantum computer information processing bits (known as quantum bits, or qubits) using electrons floating on helium. My team is funded by the RIKEN Hakubi program and we are part of the RIKEN Center for Quantum Computing, which was newly founded in April 2021.

Please briefly describe your current research.

Quantum computers can solve certain problems that would take classical computers longer than the age of the Universe. We aim to physically realize qubits, but their quality and scalability are key issues. I’ve always worked on developing hardware for quantum computing. However, we don’t even know which material is the best to realize quantum computers. Here at RIKEN, I hope to realize qubits using electrons floating on the surface of liquid helium. This is a relatively new field of research and there are many unknowns. But since electrons float in a vacuum, they have the advantage of being an extremely clean physical system and this may help to protect fragile quantum states and produce reliable qubits.

Picture of Erina Kawakami.j

How did you become interested in your current research?

I love weird things. There are some laws of physics that appear to be inconsistent with how we make sense of the Universe in our daily life, but do, in fact, explain the world amazingly well. In quantum mechanics, an object can possess a superposition of two states, and measurements change these states. Quantum computers make use of the weirdness of the quantum world and it’s exciting to imagine a world with quantum computers.

How and when did you join RIKEN?

I found an advertisement about the RIKEN Hakubi research fellowship in 2019, was appointed in 2020 and given the funds to create my own team.

What do you wish you had known before you came to RIKEN?

I didn't know that the RIKEN Wako campus is famous for its cherry blossoms before this spring. It was wonderful!