In electronics, information transfer requires the rapid opening and closing of signal gates. Now, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago have applied a technique called electromagnonics to revolutionize information transfer, with serious implications for next-generation technologies like quantum computing.
The team’s discovery combines two types of information carriers: microwave photons (which are the particles that comprise waves like those in cell signals) and magnons (which are quasiparticles that follow spin waves, which themselves are disturbances in magnetically ordered systems). Together, they constitute electromagnonics.
Combining these two carriers into a hybrid magnonic system, the researchers aim to enable, disable and control the duration of the microwave photon-magnon interaction – a milestone known as “coherent gate operation.”
“Many research groups are combining different types of information carriers for information processing,” said Xufeng Zhang, an assistant scientist at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials and co-author of the paper, in an interview with Argonne’s Joseph E. Harmon. “Such hybrid systems would enable practical applications that are not possible with information carriers of a single type.”
But coherent gate operation has been an elusive goal, requiring energy tuning that is typically much less responsive than is necessitated by the brief lifetimes of magnons. “Signal processing that couples spin waves and microwaves is a high-wire act,” Zhang said. “The signal must remain coherent despite dissipations and other outside effects threatening to throw the system into incoherence.”
The Argonne team’s breakthrough is a new method that allows for rapid energy level tuning, enabling switches on the order of 10 to 100 nanoseconds – within the magnon lifetime. “We start by tuning the photon and magnon with an electric pulse so that they have the same energy level,” Zhang explained. “Then, the information exchange starts between them and continues until the electric pulse is turned off, which shifts the energy level of the magnon away from that of the photon.”
Thus, coherent gate operation is achieved for electromagnonics. The researchers’ discovery will help to enable next-generation information transfer in both classical and quantum computing, as well as applications in areas like signal switching and low-power computing.
The research discussed in this article was published as “Coherent Gate Operations in Hybrid Magnonics” in the May 2021 issue of Physical Review Letters. The paper was written by Jing Xu, Changchun Zhong, Xu Han, Dafei Jin, Liang Jiang and Xufeng Zhang. To read it, click here.
To read the reporting from Argonne’s Joseph E. Harmon, click here.