(ORDO NEWS) — Australian scientists have created the world’s first quantum computer circuit that contains all the main components of a classical computer chip, but on a quantum scale.
The historic discovery, published today in the journal Nature , has been in the making for nine years.
“This is the most exciting discovery of my career,” senior author and quantum physicist Michelle Simmons, founder of Silicon Quantum Computing and director of the UNSW Center of Excellence for Quantum Computing and Communications Technologies, told ScienceAlert.
Simmons and her team have not only created what is essentially a functional quantum processor, but they have successfully tested it by simulating a small molecule in which each atom has multiple quantum states, which a traditional computer would have difficulty achieving.
This suggests that we are now one step closer to finally harnessing the power of quantum processing to better understand the world around us, even on the smallest scale.
“In the 1950s, Richard Feynman said that we will never understand how the world works – how nature works – unless we can start doing it on the same scale,” Simmons told ScienceAlert.
“If we can start understanding materials at this level, we can create things that have never been made before.
“The question is how do you actually control nature at this level. level?”
The latest invention follows the team’s creation of the first quantum transistor in 2012.
(A transistor is a small device that controls electronic signals and is only part of a computer circuit. An integrated circuit is more complex because it combines many transistors.)
To make the leap in quantum computing, the researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope in ultra-high vacuum to place quantum dots with sub-nanometer precision.
The placement of each quantum dot must be correct so that the circuit can mimic the jump of electrons along the chain of carbon atoms with single and double bonds in the polyacetylene molecule.
The most difficult thing was to figure out exactly how many phosphorus atoms should be in each quantum dot; how far apart should not be; and then develop a machine that could place tiny dots on a silicon chip in exact order.
If the quantum dots are too large, the interaction between the two dots becomes “too big to control them independently”. , say the researchers.
If the dots are too small, this introduces randomness, because each extra phosphorus atom can significantly change the amount of energy needed to add one more electron to the dot.
The final quantum chip contained 10 quantum dots, each consisting of a small number of phosphorus atoms.
Double carbon bonds were modeled by establishing a smaller distance between quantum dots than single carbon. connections.
Polyacetylene was chosen because it is a well-known model and therefore can be used to prove that a computer correctly simulates the movement of electrons in a molecule.
Quantum computers are needed because classical computers cannot model large molecules; they are just too complicated.
For example, to model a penicillin molecule with 41 atoms, a classical computer would need 1086 transistors, that is, “there are more transistors than there are atoms in the observed region.” Universe”.
A quantum computer would only need a processor with 286 qubits (quantum bits).
Because scientists currently have a limited understanding of how molecules function on an atomic scale, there are many assumptions when creating new materials.
“One of the holy grails has always been the creation of a high-temperature superconductor,” says Simmons. “People just don’t know the mechanics of how it works.”
Another potential application of quantum computing is the study of artificial photosynthesis and how light is converted into chemical energy through an organic chain of reactions.
Another big problem that quantum computers can help solve is the creation of fertilizers. Triple nitrogen bonds are currently broken under high temperature and pressure conditions in the presence of an iron catalyst to create bound nitrogen for fertilizer.
Finding another catalyst that can make fertilizer more efficient can save a lot of money and energy.
Simmons says achieving the transition from quantum transistor to circuit in just nine years mimics the roadmap set by the inventors of classical computers.
The first classical computer transistor was created in 1947. The first integrated circuit was built in 1958. There were 11 years between these two inventions; Simmons’ team made this leap two years ahead of schedule.
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