Another Step Towards Large Quantum Computers

The team of scientists have encoded quantum information using simple electrical pulses for the first time, a encouraging breakthrough in the field of quantum computers. Instead of storing data on transistors and hard drives, quantum computers use the quantum states of microscopic objects known as qubits to encode data, according to The Economic Times.

Quantum computers move forward

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have become the first in the world to show single-atom spin qubits in silicon. Previous research at the university demonstrated control of these qubits at an accuracy over more than 99%, and also set a world record for the length of time that quantum information could be stored in a solid state.

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The encoding of quantum information using electrical impulses is a major step in bringing quantum computers to the wider population. “We demonstrated that a highly coherent qubit, like the spin of a single phosphorus atom in isotopically enriched silicon, can be controlled using electric fields, instead of using pulses of oscillating magnetic fields,” said study lead author Dr Arne Laucht, post-doctoral researcher at UNSW.

According to UNSW Associate Professor Andrea Morello, the method uses a localized electric field to distort the shape of the electron cloud attached to the atom. “This distortion at the atomic level has the effect of modifying the frequency at which the electron responds. Therefore, we can selectively choose which qubit to operate. It’s a bit like selecting which radio station we tune to, by turning a simple knob. Here, the ‘knob’ is the voltage applied to a small electrode placed above the atom,” said Morello.

Reducing development and production costs

Scientists believe that cheaply-produced voltage generators could be used to locally control individual qubits with electric fields, instead of more expensive high-frequency microwave sources. Another major advance is that these quantum bits are relatively cheap to make because they use a similar technology to that used in the production of existing computers.

If researchers can succeed in driving down the costs of development and production of quantum computers, we could see the first commercial examples sooner than previously thought.

The journal Science Advances published the original paper.