Engineers at Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW) have announced a ‘radical’ new way of building quantum computers which they claim to pave the way for easier and cheaper large-scale quantum chip production.
The new chip-design is called ‘flip-flop qubit,’ and it is claimed to allow a silicon quantum processor to scale up while sidestepping barriers which other traditional processes failed to break. It made the farther placement of qubits, or quantum bits, possible without breaking their coupled states.
The team behind the radical new design is led by Andrea Morello, the program manager in UNSW-based ARC Center of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) in Sydney.
How It (Theoretically) Works
It has been clarified that the new design is still a theory, and it “has yet to be built.”
”We have some preliminary experimental data that suggest it’s entirely feasible, so we’re working to fully demonstrate this,” said Morello, adding that the concept is as significant as Bruce Kane’s seminal 1998 paper in Nature.
Initially, information on both the electron and the nucleus of a phosphorus atom inside a silicon chip are coded while being chilled to an absolute zero temperature in a magnetic field.
The flip-flop qubit operates by the pulling of an electron away from the nucleus using the electrodes located at the top. This creates electric dipoles which can interact with each other over fairly large distances, which are around 1,000 nanometers.
The distance between dipoles is a significant point to consider.
“If they’re too close, or are too far apart, the ‘entanglement’ between quantum bits—which is what makes quantum computers so special—doesn’t occur,” said Guilherme Tosi, a fellow researcher at UNSW.
The qubits are basically controlled by electric fields instead of magnetic signals. This operation gives two advantages. First, it is easier to integrate with normal electronic circuits. Second, the communication among qubits can be done in farther distances.
“This means we can now place the single-atom qubits much further apart than previously thought possible. So there is plenty of space to intersperse the key classical components such as interconnects, control electrodes and readout devices, while retaining the precise atom-like nature of the quantum bit,” said Morello.
This design, if proven successful, will pave the way for smaller and more affordable quantum computers.
“It’s a brilliant design, and like many such conceptual leaps, it’s amazing no one had thought of it before,” Morello added.
The Race to Quantum Computing
The race to build a quantum computer has been considered a top ambition for the 21st century technology. Researchers say that if challenges are overcome, it could bring revolutionary tools for impossible calculations. Healthcare, defense, finance, chemistry and materials development, software debugging, aerospace, and transport are among the numerous areas which will possibly benefit.
Tech giants Google and IBM are among several technological companies that are developing quantum computers using various approaches. The present goal is the mass-production of quantum computers, and researchers so far have been unsuccessful in doing so.
“It will take great engineering to bring quantum computing to commercial reality and the work we see from this extraordinary team puts Australia in the driver’s seat,” said UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, Mark Hoffman, referring to Morello’s team. “It’s a great example of how UNSW, like many of the world’s leading research universities, is today at the heart of a sophisticated global knowledge system that is shaping our future.”
Investments from telco giant Telstra, Australia’s Commonwealth Bank, and the Australian and New South Wales governments have helped set up Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd, which plans to build a 10-qubit prototype silicon integrated circuit by 2020. It is considered to be the first step in building the world’s first quantum computer in silicon.
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