Researchers have developed a radical new design for quantum computing chips that allows faster and cheaper production.
The computer on your desktop has a memory made up of binary digits (bits), with each bit always in one of two definite states – 0 or 1. Quantum computers, however, aren’t limited to just two states, instead, they use atoms to encode information as quantum bits (qubits), each of which can be in several states simultaneously. Because the qubits can contain multiple states at the same time, a quantum computer can perform many calculations at once, making them potentially millions of times more powerful than today’s most powerful computers.
While quantum computers have been developed in engineering laboratories, there are many issues which keep the costs high, such as the need to develop new ways to cool the computers. Most daunting, however, is that the qubits on the chips must be placed very precisely, just 10-20 nanometers (50 atoms) apart – making them very expensive and time-consuming to produce. Now, a new quantum chip design has been developed by engineers working at the University of New South Wales-based ARC Center of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) which allows the qubits to be placed hundreds of nanometers apart. The design was conceived by a team led by CQC2T researchers Guilherme Tosi and Andrea Morello, in collaboration with a team at Purdue University. Explained Morello: “What Guilherme and the team have invented is a new way to define a ‘spin qubit’ that uses both the electron and the nucleus of the atom.” Where previous quantum computers required either very precise placing of qubits, or were very large, this new design could allow quantum computers to be built at a price and size that is commercially viable.
The CQC2T team has struck a AUD 83 million deal between funders and the Australian government to develop a prototype silicon quantum integrated circuit by 2022 – the first step in building the world’s first silicon-based quantum computer. In August, the new partners launched Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd, Australia’s first quantum computing company, to advance the development and commercialisation of this unique technology. We have already seen quantum technology can improve scientific study. How might affordable quantum computing change the face of commercial computing and technology?