The next generation of computers promises far greater power and faster processing speeds than today's silicon-based based machines. These "quantum computers" — so called because they would harness the unique quantum mechanical properties of atomic particles — could draw their computing power from a collection of super-cooled molecules. But chilling molecules to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, the temperature at which they can be manipulated to store and transmit data, has proven to be a difficult challenge for scientists. Now, UCLA physicists have pioneered a new technique that combines two traditional atomic cooling technologies and brings normally springy molecules to a frozen standstill. Their research is published March 28 in the journal Nature. "Scientists have been trying to cool molecules for a decade and have succeeded with only a few special molecules," said Eric Hudson, a UCLA assistant professor of physics and the paper's senior author. "Our technique is a completely different approach to the problem — it is a lot easier to implement than the other techniques and should work with hundreds of different molecules." Previous attempts to create ultracold molecules were only effective with one or two specific kinds. Creating a method that can be used with many different molecules would be a major step forward because it is difficult to say which materials might be used in quantum computers or other future applications, Hudson said. By immersing charged barium chloride molecules in an ultracold cloud of calcium atoms, Hudson and his colleagues are able to prevent most of the molecules from vibrating and rotating. Halting the molecules is a necessary hurdle to overcome before they can be used to store information like a traditional computer does. "The goal is to build a computer that doesn't work with zeros and ones, but with quantum mechanical objects," Hudson said. "A quantum computer could crack any code created by a classical computer and transmit information perfectly securely."