Scientists have developed a programmable quantum processor made with silicon, an advance that brings quantum computers closer to reality. The research, published in the journal Nature, used microwave energy to align two electron particles suspended in silicon, then used them to perform a set of test calculations.
Researchers, including those from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, hope that by using silicon, quantum computers will be more easy to control and manufacture. Quantum computers are incredibly powerful machines that take a new approach to processing information. Superposition, the process where something can exist in multiple states at once, is what makes quantum computing so potentially powerful.
Standard computer processors rely on packets or bits of information, each one representing a single yes or no answer. However, Quantum processors work in the almost surreal world of yes and no. This twin-state of quantum information is known as a qubit. Researchers turned to silicon to suspend single electron qubits whose spin was fixed by the use of microwave energy, ‘BBC News’ reported.
In the superposition state, the electron was spinning both up and down. The team was then able to connect two qubits and programme them to perform trial calculations. The data matched and the team successfully built a programmable two-qubit silicon-based processor. Another team, led by Professor Jason Petta from Princeton University in the US, was able to transfer the state of the spin of an electron suspended in silicon onto a single photon of light. This is a ‘fantastic achievement’ in the development of silicon-based quantum computers, Petta said.