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Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have added to their collection of ingredients for future quantum computers by performing logic operations — basic computing steps — with two atoms of different elements. This hybrid design could be an advantage in large computers and networks based on quantum physics.

The NIST experiment, described in the December 17, 2015, issue of Nature, manipulated one magnesium and one beryllium ion (charged atom) confined in a custom trap. The scientists used two sets of laser beams to entangle the two ions — establishing a special quantum link between their properties — and to perform two types of logic operations, a controlled NOT (CNOT) gate and a SWAP gate. The same issue of Nature describes similar work with two forms of calcium ions performed at the University of Oxford.

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