Edition Q1/2016


Welcome to our first newsletter of 2016! In this edition, we note that the movement towards an operational quantum computer is gaining some speed as the tech industry's giants increase their research efforts. Top scientists from Google, Microsoft, HP Labs and Intel were all invited to speak about their quantum computing efforts at Caltech's Quantum Summit in January. The month before, IBM announced funding for its quantum computer research. And only a few months earlier, Alibaba made public its investment in a new Shanghai quantum computing lab led by Pan Jianwei of the University of Science and Technology of China. The quantum computing research community is evidently expanding beyond academia.

We are committed to the teams pushing the frontiers of quantum physics with the launch of our new ultra-high frequency arbitrary waveform generator (UHF-AWG) that can be used in a wide range of quantum computing applications as noted in the article below.

Our Customer Interview features Gary Steele, a leading quantum information technology scientist at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience.
Also we have launched a current and voltage digitizer for the MFLI platform. It is fully integrated into the LabOne control software. For those that haven't already used LabOne, we created a new video that will bring you up to speed quickly: see LabOne Quick Start Guide.

New Product I: AWG with Integrated Detection


  • 2 Channels
  • 1.8 GSa/s, 14 bit
  • 128 MSa memory
To meet the needs of researchers in quantum computing, Zurich Instruments has developed and is now launching a 2-channel arbitrary waveform generator (AWG), comprising a 128 MSa waveform memory with 1.8 GSa/s temporal and 14-bit vertical resolution. It is made for the proven ultra-high frequency (UHF) 600 MHz platform from Zurich Instruments.

The UHF-AWG is the only off-the-shelf instrument that supports a choice of several internal detection schemes. It includes pulse counting, demodulation and digitizers, as well as the ability to combine them. Internal detection schemes support sophisticated sequence branching protocols with minimal signal transit time (< 1 µs) required by demanding applications, such as quantum error correction.

The AWG is integrated into the LabOne instrument control software, enabling a quicker start for experimentalists and more efficiency for the research teams over time. In addition, LabOne is now equipped with a new AWG scripting language supporting high level commands that enable experimentalists to quickly customize sequences. Moreover, the parametric Sweeper of the LabOne user interface enables easy measurement automation once sequences are defined.

Standard waveform playback is supported in the UHF-AWG, as is amplitude modulation (with up to 8 internal signal generators), which often reduces the complexity of the required waveforms and shortens programming time. It ensures phase coherence across different frequencies, supporting the ability to switch back and forth quickly. While required for quantum computing applications, these features are also applicable in mixed-signal device testing and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

The combination of high-speed demodulation, bandwidths of up to 5 MHz and variable waveform branching support make the AWG ideal for circuit quantum electrodynamics and similar quantum computing applications.

For applications that do not require a demodulation step, such as trapped ion quantum computing, the basic AWG configuration with 2 signal inputs to verify waveform outputs is a good choice. The UHF-AWG, like all UHF instruments shipped by Zurich Instruments, has easy upgrade paths to increase functionality after purchase.

Want to learn more? Get in touch.

Customer Interview: Gary Steele

Gary Steele (Researchgate) heads up the Steele Lab in the MED group Department of Quantum Nanoscience, Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology.
Hi Gary! We're here at the ScaleQIT International Conference 2016 in Delft, Netherlands, a showcase for the latest research on quantum information technologies that was held in late January this 2016. What's the cool thing about exploiting quantum phenomena to tackle technological problems?

Well in our case you could say we're more taking advantage of quantum technology to do some interesting physics!

For your experiments you couple nanomechanical resonators with high-quality superconducting microwave resonators. What interesting effects result from this marriage?

We use superconducting devices to detect the motion of vibrating objects with very high precision and ultimately measure them in their quantum ground state. From there you can go on and program arbitrary quantum superposition states. Nobody has looked at these quantum states of motion; it's sort of an uncharted territory!

Another possibility is to use these vibrating objects as sensors. An example is the atomic force microscope which uses a mechanical cantilever to measure van der Waals forces between tip and surface. With functionalized tips you can go on and use that same AFM to measure electric or magnetic fields. If you have precise sensor for forces you can easily get precise sensors for many more physical phenomena.

So this seems to be the place where these devices are going to be applied. On what timescale do you think this will happen?

Difficult to say, in fact in our field we rather focus on something else: using nanomechanical systems to transduce microwave photons into optical photons. That's attractive because it's easier to transmit optical photons over long distances. There's been impressive progress lately and this transformation has been demonstrated. Based on that you can envision entangling qubits with microwave photons, convert them to optical photons, and send them down the fiber!

Through the quantum internet!

... and via satellite to Japan!

You use the HF2LI 50 MHz lock-in amplifier for your measurements. Which features help you?

We use the HF2LI to perform high-speed measurements of carbon resonators (Appl. Phys. Lett. 107, 053121 [2013]), recently observing decoherence in the motion of a vibrational nanotube (Nature Comm. 5, 5819 [2014]). You can do these measurements with analog mixers, and we tried. But the non-ideal mixers essentially make your signal "explode" into a mess of sidebands. With the HF2 you can do all the filtering and mixing in the digital domain where things are much closer to ideality. And that made the difference between spending half a year getting the analog setup to work, and just plugging in the HF2LI and start measuring. The other useful thing is the low time constant down to 800 ns, which allowed us to do very fast ring-down measurements.

Tell us something you love about Dutch weather.

It's miserable much of the time, but the misery makes you appreciate the good weather more. So, if there's a sunny day, you have a smile on your face and a happy warm feeling even if it's cold outside!

New Video: LabOne Quick Start Guide

With the latest release of LabOne, which was launched earlier this year, all instrument platforms (MFLI, HF2LI and UHFLI) can be controlled with this innovative control software.

Paolo Navaretti stars in our latest video, a quick start guide, explaining to all new users how to setup their first measurements with the LabOne user interface.

New Product II: MF-DIG, First Current and Voltage Digitizer

Zurich Instruments just introduced a digitizer for its MFLI 500 kHz/5 MHz lock-in amplifier series. The MF-DIG Digitizer enables direct access to low-noise data streams from two signal inputs, the current input, as well as the differential voltage input. The 16-bit vertical resolution at a maximum sampling rate of 60 MSa/s in combination with the most advanced analog front end featuring multiple input ranges enabling best possible SNR. Reducing the sampling rate allows for additional averaging and an increase of the nominal resolution to up to 24 bit.

The MF-DIG is fully integrated into the LabOne user interface to make it convenient to record and visualize waveforms with up to 2.5 MSa per shot on the 2 channel scope. Up to 1024 memory segments are available for fast triggering events. Sustained streaming rates to the application programming interface (API) support a single channel at 3.75 MSa/s, or 1.75 MSa/s each if two channels are streamed simultaneously.

With the full implementation of an internal trigger engine, the user can select a wide range of trigger channels and take advantage of cross domain triggers. The recording of the input stream based on signal conditions can be defined on the demodulated data stream.

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