May 1, 2013 — An Australian team led by researchers at the University of New South Wales has achieved a breakthrough in quantum science that brings the prospect of a network of ultra-powerful quantum computers -- connected via a quantum internet -closer to reality.
The study is a collaboration between researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology based at UNSW, the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne. It is published in the journal Nature.
"We have the best of both worlds with our combination of an electrical and optical system. This is a revolutionary new technique, and people had doubts it was possible. It is the first step towards a global quantum internet," Professor Rogge said.
Quantum computers promise to deliver an exponential increase in processing power over conventional computers by using a single electron or nucleus of an atom as the basic processing unit -- a quantum bit, or qubit.
By performing multiple calculations simultaneously, quantum computers are expected to have applications in economic modelling, fast database searches, modelling of quantum materials and biological molecules and drugs, and encryption and decryption of information.
In a qubit, information is stored in the spin, or magnetic orientation, of the electron or nucleus. Due to a quantum property known as superposition, spin can not only be up or down, but in both states at once. To produce a functioning qubit, scientists must be able to control, or change, the spin state and then detect, or "read" it.
Professor Rogge said the breakthrough was made possible by combining the expertise of the three groups. The next step would be to control the spin of the erbium atom, which should be relatively straightforward, and also to replicate their results using a phosphorus atom embedded in silicon.
The researchers said it will be at least another decade before the potential of quantum computation is fully realised.
- Chunming Yin, Milos Rancic, Gabriele G. de Boo, Nikolas Stavrias, Jeffrey C. McCallum, Matthew J. Sellars, Sven Rogge. Optical addressing of an individual erbium ion in silicon. Nature, 2013; 497 (7447): 91 DOI: 10.1038/nature12081
Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.