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An ion trap is a combination of electric or magnetic fields used to capture charged particles — known as ions — often in a system isolated from an external environment. Ion traps have a number of scientific uses such as mass spectrometry, basic physics research, and controlling quantum states. The two most common types of ion trap are the Penning trap, which forms a potential via a combination of electric and magnetic fields, and the Paul trap which forms a potential via a combination of static and oscillating electric fields.

Some experimental work towards developing quantum computers use trapped ions. Units of quantum information called qubits are stored in stable electronic states of each ion, and quantum informationcan be processed and transferred through the collective quantized motion of the ions, interacting by the Coulomb force. Lasers are applied to induce coupling between the qubit states (for single qubit operations) or between the internal qubit states and external motional states (for entanglement between qubits).


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