The ability to exploit the extraordinary properties of quantum mechanics in novel applications, such as a new generation of super-fast computers, seems to come closer following with recent breakthroughs by an international team led by researchers from the University of New South Wales.
In the two breakthroughs, written up in the international journals Nano Letters and Applied Physics Letters, researchers have for the first time demonstrated two ways to deliberately place an electron in a nano-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 or “spin”, to create a quantum bit. Multiple quantum bits coupled together make up the processor of a quantum computer.
Professor Andrew Dzurak, the NSW Node Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW and Dr Andrea Morello, Manager of the Quantum Measurement and Control Chip Program at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology, were leaders in the breakthrough work.
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.
The other leaders of the research team are Professor David Jamieson at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Mikko Möttönen at the Helsinki University of Technology. Students Wee Han Lim and Kuan Yen Tan have just completed their PhD degrees in the UNSW School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications.
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