Toronto: The quantum computer is a futuristic machine that could operate at speeds even more mind-boggling than fastest super-computers in existence.
Physicist Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University, Canada, offers a new step towards making quantum computing a reality, through the unique properties of highly enriched and highly purified silicon.
Quantum computers right now exist pretty much in physicists' concepts, and theoretical research. There are some basic quantum computers in existence, but nobody yet can build a truly practical one, or really knows how.
Make a practical quantum computer with enough qubits available and it could complete in minutes calculations that would take ultrafast super-computers years, and your laptop perhaps millions of years.
Such computers will harness the powers of atoms and sub-atomic particles (ions, photons, electrons) to perform memory and processing tasks, thanks to strange sub-atomic properties, according to a Simon Fraser statement.
What Thewalt and colleagues at Oxford University and in Germany have found is that their special silicon allows processes to take place and be observed in a solid state that scientists used to think required a near-perfect vacuum.
And, using this 28Si they have extended to three minutes, from a matter of seconds, the time in which scientists can manipulate, observe and measure the processes.
"It's by far a record in solid-state systems," Thewalt says. "If you'd asked people a few years ago if this was possible, they'd have said no. It opens new ways of using solid-state semi-conductors such as silicon as a base for quantum computing."
Quantum computing is a concept that challenges everything we know or understand about today's computers. Your desktop or laptop computer processes "bits" of information. The bit is a fundamental unit of information, seen by your computer as having a value of either "1" or "0."
That last paragraph, when written in Word, contains 181 characters including spaces. In your home computer, that simple paragraph is processed as a string of some 1,448 "1"s and "0"s. But in the quantum computer, the "quantum bit" (also known as a "qubit") can be both a "1" and a "0" -- and all values between 0 and 1 -- at the same time.
Thewalt says, "A classical 1/0 bit can be thought of as a person being either at the North or South Pole, whereas a qubit can be anywhere on the surface of the globe -- its actual state is described by two parameters similar to latitude and longitude."
First Published: Monday, June 11, 2012, 12:32