Basic quantum computation achieved with silicon for first time

Oct 12, 2015

Mehau Kulyk/SPL

By Daily News

The ingredients for superfast computers could be nearly in place. For the first time, researchers have demonstrated that two silicon transistors acting as quantum bits can perform a tiny calculation. Now it’s just a question of using these as the building blocks of a larger quantum computer – taking advantage of the very material that is ubiquitous in conventional electronics.

Where conventional computing uses bits, quantum computing uses qubits, which can take the values 0, 1 or various combinations of these, instead of being stuck at either 0 or 1. This means they could exponentially shrink the time it takes to solve problems, transforming fields like encryption and the search for new pharmaceuticals.

Previously qubit calculations had been made using ultra-cold superconductors, which are easier to couple together into a basic calculator – but never with user-friendly silicon. In silicon, the qubits are isolated to keep them stable, which is a barrier to making two qubits interact with each other.

Now, a team led by Andrew Dzurak of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, has achieved that feat. Their device looks at the spin of two electrons and follows instructions: if the first one is spinning in a particular direction, flip the spin of the second electron. If not, do nothing.

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