Researchers Claim Major Breakthrough In Quantum Computer Design

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The size and complexity of data sets are growing at a faster pace than our computing resources. This hastens the need of a quantum computer which can process the data much faster than our current computers. However, quantum computers are not easy to develop, and it requires massive funds to be able to develop them. But according to Australian researchers, they may have found a way to make them more easily and inexpensively.

New design overcomes two limitations

In May 2015, researchers at the University of New South Wales first came across the idea of squeezing more quantum bits, known as qubits, on a silicon atom by placing electrons further from the nucleus. Now in a study published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday, the researchers described the potential of their novel design theoretically.

Researchers from UNSW claim that they have developed a new chip design based on a new type of qubit. This new design, according to the researchers, will help address the two challenges in existing designs. The first requirement is that atoms be placed precisely, and the second is that the new design allows them to be placed further apart and still be connected.

Qubits can either be one, a zero or both, unlike the discrete zeros and ones used in “classical” computing. This property of qubits makes it possible to exponentially raise computing speed and power. Several problems in medicine and climate modeling which are currently limited due to lack of computing power could easily be solved with quantum computing.

Entanglement is another unique property of quantum objects, which means they operate in pairs, such that switching one instantly switches the pair. However, the new design from the Australian researchers could apply this unique property of quantum objects to current technology.

“This new idea allows us to fabricate multi-qubit processes with current technology,” says Guilherme Tosi, the lead scientist.

Making quantum computing more feasible

To give an example, Google’s quantum computer has nine qubits, while IBM’s quantum computer has 16 qubits. China’s Sunway TaihuLight, which is the world’s fastest supercomputer, runs at 93 petaflops, but it uses massive amounts of energy and relies on 10 million processing cores. In comparison, a desktop runs at gigaflops, notes Reuters.

The new design is based on the so-called “flip-flop qubit,” meaning the chips will use the same technology which goes into producing existing computer chips.

“This makes the building of a quantum computer much more feasible, since it is based on the same manufacturing technology as today’s computer industry,” says project leader Andrea Mello.

Acknowledging the development by the UNSW researchers, the federal government has committed AU$26 million to fund the work in quantum computing. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has also promised AU$10 million over five years to support the researchers. Telstra also pledged AU$10 million over five years to help the university come up with the world’s first silicon-based quantum computer, notes ZDNet.

In addition, the team at UNSW also entered an AU$83 million deal with UNSW, Telstra, CBA, and the Australian and New South Wales governments to come up with a 10-qubit prototype silicon quantum integrated circuit by 2022.

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