Perhaps the zaniest property of quantum mechanics is that of entanglement, which is the weird instantaneous connection that exists between two entangled particles no matter their distance from one another. Scientists have long been working to master this property in order to create superfast computers that can communicate and transfer data instantaneously, but learning to control the quantum data has proven difficult.
The latest breakthrough in quantum computing, however, brings the technology much closer to reality. Australian scientists have developed the first silicon quantum technology capable of holding data with over 99 percent accuracy, reports PC Mag. It's particularly significant because silicon is the same material used to build conventional computers, meaning that the technology could potentially be mass-produced using the same sort of equipment currently used for chip manufacturing.
Development of the new technology came in two steps. First, the scientists refined a technique used to turn phosphorous atoms into qubits, the units of measurement for quantum information. Second, they manufactured an "artificial atom" using a silicon resistor. Taken together, the two methods improved the reliability of data retention from just 50 percent to over 99 percent, an extraordinary upgrade.
"We have demonstrated that with silicon qubit we can have the accuracy needed to build a real quantum computer. That's the first time this has been done in silicon," explained Andrew Dzurak of the University of New South Wales, one of the study's authors.
The trick to improving the accuracy of the technology was to select for specific silicon isotopes that have no magnetic spin, because magnetic spin can mess with the phosphorous atoms that the qubits are made of.
"In natural silicon each atom also has its own spin which affects the phosphorous atom, which is why the accuracy was only 50 per cent," said Dzurak. "We solved the problem by removing all the silicon 29 isotopes that have magnetic spin leaving only silicon 28, which has no magnetic spin to influence the phosphorous, giving us an accuracy of 99.99 per cent."
Scientists also said they were able to increase the length of time with which information was retained in their silicon qubits, a function known as "coherence time."
The capability of building a quantum computer from materials already widely used for building conventional computers might be this study's most significant accomplishment, however. It means that quantum computers can potentially be mass-produced, lowering the costs of developing the technology for both researchers and, eventually, for future consumers.
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