Quantum computers are the next big revolution in computing technology. They will have enough power to tackle large scale complex problems including modeling viruses like COVID-19 etc. The creation of new medicines, sophisticated cryptography, and the development of catalysts to reduce energy consumption. Unfortunately, this technology is still more than a decade away from practical use. However, scientists have achieved a major breakthrough that could bring quantum computing within reach.
A group of researchers has shown that a silicon based qubit can operate at higher temperatures than normal. This breakthrough led to a design of a new type of quantum chip that is much easier to work with. Their concept article was published recently in Nature and has most likely broken through one of the severe roadblocks in quantum computing.
So, What actually is a Qubit?
Qubits are the basic units of quantum computing. Just like a normal bit in your personal computer, the qubit can represent a 0 or a 1. When working together they form a binary code that is the foundation for computer processing. The qubit is more complex as it can also manifest both the 1 and 0 states at the same time. This is known as a “superposition” and is the basis for quantum computing.
On paper, this may not sound like advanced but when millions of these qubits are working together. They can solve problems that no supercomputer on the planet can handle.
Regular Qubits vs Silicon Qubits
Currently, regular qubits work at a temperature that is just fractions of a degree over absolute zero, which is colder than deep space. In order to maintain that temperature, cutting edge refrigeration technology has to be used. This is quite expensive and takes a large amount of space. A proper quantum computer using regular qubits would require an entire building just to store the cooling units.
The researcher team has designed a chip that uses silicon qubits. They can operate at a temperature of 1.5 Kelvin. Which is also really cold but would require much less cost of refrigeration rather than millions.
Other Important Quantum Computing Problems
“Noise” remains the biggest problem for the development of quantum computers. It must be solved before they can be used publicly and in the ways that have been proposed. The latest research suggests a way of dealing with such noise, in turn potentially opening up a way to control that noise and develop much better quantum computing systems.
Quantum computers can change the way we use technology, by allowing for the solving of problems that may take years using today’s computers. But, to do so, they very less noise as to be reliable.
Quantum Mechanics and Future
Quantum entanglement is a basic property of quantum mechanics. It occurs when a group of particles are quantum-mechanically linked. This linkage is in a way such that the quantum state of each particle is not independent of the state of the others. Hence, two entangled quantum dots can emit entangled photons.
Professor John Donegan says:
“The device works by placing a metal tip within a few nanometers of a surface containing the quantum dots. The tip is excited by light and produces an electric field of such enormous intensity that it can greatly increase the number of single photons emitted by the dots. This strong field can also couple emission from pairs of quantum dots, entangling their states in a way that is unique to quantum emitters of light.”
Professor Ortwin Hess adds:
“By scanning the metal tip over the surface containing the quantum dots, we can generate the single photon emission as required. Such a device is much simpler than current systems that attempt to fix a metal tip, or a cavity, in close proximity to a quantum dot. We now expect that this device and its operation will have a striking effect on research in quantum emitters for quantum technologies.”
Observations regarding the quantum computing breakthrough
Here are the thoughts and conclusions regarding the quantum computing breakthrough:
1. It will be able to do things in five years that many quantum experts predict will take 7 to 10 years.
2. Silicon photonics is a promising technology to build a quantum computer capable of solving complex problems that are far beyond the capabilities of classical supercomputers.
3. Error correction is a significant quantum computing problem for every present-day qubit technology.
4. If Researchers are able to produce a thousand error corrected qubits. They will create a fault-tolerant quantum computer that might change the world. It will create new drugs, design new materials, model DNA, and make thousands of other major scientific, medical, and commercial breakthroughs.
5. Microsoft had similar optimistic goals, when it began research on a topological quantum computer. That was a decade ago. Tangible results today: zero.