Scientists from Oxford University have made a significant step towards an ultrafast quantum computer by successfully generating 10 billion bits of quantum entanglement in silicon for the first time – entanglement the key ingredient that promises to make quantum computers far more powerful than conventional computing devices.
The researchers used high magnetic fields and low temperatures to produce entanglement between the electron and the nucleus of an atom of phosphorus embedded in a highly purified silicon crystal. The electron and the nucleus behave as a tiny magnet, or ‘spin’, each of which can represent a bit of quantum information. Suitably controlled, these spins can interact with each other to be coaxed into an entangled state – the most basic state that cannot be mimicked by a conventional computer.
The work has important implications for integration with existing technology as it uses dopant atoms in silicon, the foundation of the modern computer chip. The procedure was applied in parallel to a vast number of phosphorus atoms. Creating true entanglement involves crossing the barrier between the ordinary uncertainty encountered in our everyday lives and the strange uncertainties of the quantum world.
What is a ‘Quantum Computer’
i. A Quantum Computer is a computer that harnesses the power of atoms and molecules to perform memory and processing tasks.
ii. It has the potential to perform certain calculations billions of times faster than any silicon-based computer.
iii. The classical desktop computer works by manipulating bits, digits that are binary – i.e., which can either represent a zero or a one.
iv. Quantum computers aren’t limited by the binary nature of the classical physical world, however – they depend on observing the state of ‘quantum bits’ or ‘quits’ that might represent a one or a zero, might represent a combination of the two or might represent a number expressing that the state of the quit is somewhere between 1 and 0.