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A Day in the Life of a Trienens Institute Researcher

May 25, 2021
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Nikolai Tcyrulnikov is a postdoctoral researcher at the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy. His group, led by Trienens Institute Executive Director Michael R. Wasielewski, focuses on light-driven processes in molecules, such as artificial photosynthesis and quantum information science. Tcyrulnikov is currently studying how organic molecules can be used to create quantum computers. 

“We’re on the verge of a revolution in information technology and that’s thanks to quantum computers,” said Tcyrulnikov. “Quantum computers are going to change … how we think about information and how fast it is processed.” 

Organic molecules like the ones Tcyrulnikov is studying can be used to form qubits, a two-level quantum system that powers quantum computers. When the organic molecule is hit with light, the electrons become excited and form a radical pair with spins that are quantum-mechanically correlated. These spins comprise a two-qubit system. 

Qubits are “exponentially faster” than normal computer bits, but they are difficult to create and manipulate. With his research, Tcyrulnikov is using familiar processes of organic chemistry synthesis for new applications in quantum information science. 

“We’re bringing these molecules into the 21st century,” he said.

Once the target molecule is ready, Tcyrulnikov said that the next step is physical parameterization where he and other members of the group will spend time in the laser lab characterizing the photophysical processes of the molecule. This will help determine if the molecule is a suitable qubit candidate, thus using chemistry in conjunction with physics in quantum information science.