Scientists closer to developing next generation of super computers

An international team of researchers, including scientists from The University of Western Australia, is a step closer towards developing the next generation of super computers, engineering a silicon chip that guides single particles of light, called “photons”, to process quantum information with ultra-high precision and stability.

Quantum computers, the next step in computing power, hold the promise of solving complex problems otherwise intractable, such as the ability to predict and design properties of molecules, make sense of data involved in space exploration and build automated navigation systems.

At the forefront of their development is a frantic race to make the first full-scale quantum computer with companies such as IBM, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Alibaba, Baidu, Google, and NASA all hoping to develop their own quantum computers.

Professor Jingbo Wang, Head of the UWA Physics Department, said today’s computers and smartphones were encoded with information called “bits” being either a “1” or a “0”, while quantum computers are based on “qubits” that can be in a superposition of both “0” and “1” states.

“Multiple qubits can also be linked in a special way called quantum entanglement,” she said. “These two physical properties provide the power to operate quantum computers.”

Professor Wang said the big challenge was to make quantum computer processors that could be re-programmed to perform a wide range of tasks, just like computers today that can be re-programmed to run different applications, but on a much larger scale.

The research demonstrates it is possible to fully control two qubits of information within a single integrated chip, using silicon technology — the same technology used to make today’s computer processors, which is a big step forward in quantum computing.

Professor Wang said it was an exciting time for UWA scientists involved in developing the sophistication and functionality of technology never available before.

“The team have used the silicon chip to perform delicate quantum information experiments with 100,000 different reprogrammable settings,” she said.

“One of the experiments is to implement a special class of quantum walk, which allows simultaneous traversing of all possible paths in arbitrarily complex network structures.”

“Being able to explore everything at the same time offers exciting prospects for science and practical applications.”

The research paper is published in the Nature Photonics here

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