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Quantum computers come closer to reality with help of purified silicon

Last Updated: Saturday, June 9, 2012 - 10:50

Washington: Researchers have offered a new step towards making quantum computing a reality through the unique properties of highly enriched and purified silicon.

The quantum computer is a futuristic machine that could operate at speeds even more mind-boggling than the world`s fastest super-computers.

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.

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.

What Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University 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.

Using this “28Silicon” 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 said.

“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.

“You can start to do things that people thought you could only do in a vacuum. What we have found, and what wasn`t anticipated, are the sharp spectral lines (optical qualities) in the 28Silicon we have been testing. It`s so pure, and so perfect. There`s no other material like it,” he said.

However, he notes that the world is still a long way from practical quantum computers.

Quantum computing is a concept that challenges everything we know or understand about today`s computers.

Our laptops and desktops process “bits” of information. The bit is a fundamental unit of information, seen by your computer has 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.

“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,” Thewalt added.

Their study will be published in Science.


First Published: Saturday, June 9, 2012 - 10:47
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