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Phenomenally powerful computing closer to reality


Sydney: Phenomenally powerful quantum computing, the stuff of science fiction, has edged closer to reality, thanks to recent breakthroughs.

Quantum computing relies on controlling and observing the behaviour of quantum particles or single electrons, to deliver phenomenal processing power at blinding speeds.

A team of Andrew Dzurak, professor, University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Andrea Morello, at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology, achieved these breakthroughs.

They have for the first time demonstrated two ways to place an electron in a nano (billionth of a metre) sized device on a silicon chip.

The achievements set the stage for the next crucial steps of being able to observe and then control the electron’s quantum state known as “spin”, to create a quantum bit.

Multiple quantum bits strung together make up the processor of a quantum computer.

They accurately localised a single electron in silicon after stripping it from an atom. This ‘artificial atom’ is known as a “quantum dot”.

Morello said the quantum dot avoided the difficulty of having to introduce single atoms

in precise positions in a silicon chip.

In a separate project, researchers, including doctoral student Kuan Yen Tan, used ‘nature’s own way’ to localise electrons, by binding them to single atoms.

Quantum computing’s power comes from the fact that electrons can have a “spin” pointing in one of two directions. The spin position can be used in the same way that zeroes and ones represent data in today’s computers.

However electrons can also hold intermediate spin positions, or quantum states, which is what gives quantum computing its power.

While today’s computers increase their power linearly with the number of bits added, quantum bits, when coupled together, can deliver an exponential increase in their ability to represent data, says an UNSW release.

These findings were published in Nano Letters and Applied Physics Letters.