The processor offers enormous possibilities. Image Credit: The University of New South Wales, Silicon Quantum Computing
Australian researchers have announced the fabrication of an atomic-scale quantum circuit, claiming it integrates all the necessary components of a classic computer chip, but on a much, much smaller scale.
Once assembled, the tiny processor was able to complete a grueling task that classical computers find difficult to complete, marking a major breakthrough in the pursuit of scalable and practical quantum computers.
“This is a major breakthrough,” Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC) founder Michelle Simmons AO said in a statement. pronunciation†
“Today’s classical computers struggle to simulate even relatively small molecules because of the large number of possible interactions between atoms. The development of SQC’s atomic circuit technology allows the company and its customers to build quantum models for a range of new materials, be it pharmaceuticals, battery materials or catalysts. It will not be long before we can start to realize new materials that did not exist before.”
Published in Nature, the creation of an atomic-scale integrated circuit is the result of two decades of research, building on principles outlined by acclaimed professor Richard Feynman. An atomic-scale circuit uses quantum dots — tiny semiconductors made of silicon just a few nanometers in size — to process information, and fabricating it on such a small scale requires impressive engineering.
First, the researchers from the University of New South Wales and Silicon Quantum Computing had to create uniform dots that could be aligned to pass information between them. Then each dot must be programmable for different energy levels, while also working as part of a larger unit of many dots. Finally, the dots shouldn’t get too close together, otherwise electrons wouldn’t be able to pass through them, so the distance between each has to be incredibly accurate to maintain their independence.
Once created, the processor was put to the test by modeling the quantum states of the organic compound polyacetylene, a task that would cost today’s computers an enormous amount of time. The processor successfully completed the task, demonstrating that it was functional.
“The superb precision of the device confirms SQC’s engineering strategy to focus on quality rather than quantity. We have created an extremely precise manufacturing technology that opens the door to a whole new world. It’s a huge step toward building a commercial quantum computer,” Simmons says.
Now the researchers hope to scale the device up to even more complex tasks that current computers couldn’t solve, in the pursuit of a practical quantum computer.
“SQC engineers are now scaling up the technology to address more industrially relevant molecules and as a company we look forward to developing targeted industrial partnerships to meet their simulation needs,” said SQC President Stephen Menzies.