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Researchers devise silicon-based quantum computing architecture

15 February 2018

Two teams of researchers, working with Intel have reported advances in a new quantum computing architecture, called spin qubits, in a pair of papers published on Tuesday. Though they are definitely not the quantum computers of the future, they do have a major selling point over other quantum computing designs, according to experts.

''We made these qubits in silicon chips, similar to what's used in classical computer processes,'' study author Thomas Watson from Technical University Delft in the Netherlands told Ryan F Mandelbaum of Gizmodo. ''The hope is that by doing things this way, we can potentially scale up to larger numbers needed to perform useful quantum computing.''

Classical computers perform all of their calculations by converting data into binary code, with each zero or one representing some physical two-choice bit. Quantum computers, on the other hand, use ''qubits'' - quantum bits that take on the two values simultaneously during calculations. Qubit pairs talk to one another using the rules of quantum mechanics and output regular bit values when the user needs an answer.

Qubits, which are a collection of two-state systems that operate and communicate via the rules of quantum mechanics can be built in many ways. Google and IBM use tiny pieces of supercooled, superconducting electronics, while IonQ intends to deploy atoms trapped by lasers, with two different internal states representing the two qubit states.

According to commentators, theoretically speaking silicon should be a great candidate to power the next-generation computers given that there already exists a huge infrastructure geared to producing silicon computer chips. Also methods already exist for generating qubits, or quantum bits, using silicon-based approaches.

Qubits are the fundamental building blocks of quantum machines. A qubit's ability to be in two states (0 and 1) at the same time - known as superposition - makes possible the massively parallel processing that is destined to outstrip the capabilities of the most powerful conventional computers.

However, silicon-based approaches have proved less popular than alternative ways to generate qubits, like the one in which superconducting materials like aluminum cooled to extreme temperatures are used.

Also silicon has been largely been ignored as it is difficult to control qubits generated that way and it is also not clear whether the resulting machines would scale well.

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