The significant advance, by a team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney appears today in the international journal Nature.
“What we have is a game changer,” said team leader Andrew Dzurak, Scientia Professor and Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW.
“We’ve demonstrated a two-qubit logic gate – the central building block of a quantum computer – and, significantly, done it in silicon. Because we use essentially the same device technology as existing computer chips, we believe it will be much easier to manufacture a full-scale processor chip than for any of the leading designs, which rely on more exotic technologies.
“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,” he added.
The advance represents the final physical component needed to realise the promise of super-powerful silicon quantum computers, which harness the science of the very small – the strange behaviour of subatomic particles – to solve computing challenges that are beyond the reach of even today’s fastest supercomputers.
In classical computers, data are rendered as binary bits, which are always in one of two states: 0 or 1. However, a quantum bit (or ‘qubit’) can exist in both of these states at once, a condition known as a superposition. A qubit operation exploits this quantum weirdness by allowing many computations to be performed in parallel (a two-qubit system performs the operation on 4 values, a three-qubit system on 8, and so on).
“If quantum computers are to become a reality, the ability to conduct one- and two-qubit calculations are essential,” said Dzurak, who jointly led the team in 2012 who demonstrated the first ever silicon qubit, also reported in Nature.
Until now, it had not been possible to make two quantum bits ‘talk’ to each other – and thereby create a logic gate – using silicon. But the UNSW team – working with Professor Kohei M. Itoh of Japan’s Keio University – has done just that for the first time.
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More information: A two-qubit logic gate in silicon, DOI: 10.1038/nature15263