Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia have designed a new type of quantum bit (qubit), which they say will enable large-scale quantum computing at a lower cost.
Quantum computers, unlike traditional models, use the ability of sub-atomic particles to exist in more than one state at a time to massively speed up processing. This relies on the ‘entanglement' of qubits, which in silicon-based quantum computers must be between 10nm and 20nm apart in order to function - leaving little room for electronics.
The new ‘flip-flop qubits' are able to communicate over distances of more than 150nm, which researcher leader Andrea Morello said might actually leave room to "cram other things between qubits."
Morello and his team proposed a method of using both the electron and nucleus of a single phosphorous atom, to create a qubit inside a layer of silicon. ‘Pulling' the electron away from the nucleus would extend the electric field that qubits use for entanglement.
As well as leaving more space, the new chip designs would also overcome the need for atoms to be very precisely placed.
Even more important, though, is the fact that the new chips could be produced using existing manufacturing technology, which opens up the possibility of mass production. Morello said that this "makes the building of a quantum computer much more feasible."
Firms including Google and IBM are working on quantum computers, although still at a very basic level: Google's existing model only has nine qubits; Big Blue's has 16. In theory, just 30 qubits could enable a universal quantum computer to operate at 10 TFLOPS.
UNSW has created a spin-out company, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd, with investments from Telstra, Australia's Commonwealth Bank and both the federal and New South Wales governments. The company plans to build a 10-qubit silicon quantum integrated circuit by 2022.
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