The field of quantum computing has covered a lot of ground lately. Researchers from Germanys Kalsruhe Institute of Technology have created the smallest quantum transistor in the world. Made of only a single silver atom, this conduit of entangled subatomic particles drastically reduces energy requirements for transmission by an order of 10 000 compared to modern silicon transistors.
Contemporary transistors channel the flow of electrical signals in between a set of wires. However, their quantum counterparts are a little more complex – carrying non binary information in the form of entangled photons across fiber optic cables where things get a little “spooky”.
With quantum computing the energy IS the information and this information takes the form of an entangled subatomic network of light that communicates simultaneously across space and time. However in order for the entangled photons (quanta of light) to exchange information across vast distances they need to be “shot” far away from each other first. That is where a transistor comes in.
Even more conservative estimates of quantum computing entail a thousand fold increase in processing power compared to todays SUPERcomputers. However, the big catch is that a quantum system needs to be kept very cold, close to absolute zero, because the vibration of nearby particles can dissolve entanglement over time.
The best thing about this silver quantum transistor? It functions at room temperature. that’s great because the more quantum hardware they don’t have to lock up in giant cryogenic chambers the better. It’s difficult to keep those conditions perfect and they take a lot of energy to operate.
By moving this silver atom to and fro you switch the quantum circuit on and off, pretty simple right? Not so much. Conventional transistors are made of semiconductor material like silicon so although it may be possible to utilize this silver transistor in todays electronics scientists may be better off waiting until they go quantum because it would take some time to re purpose modern circuit-boards to play well with metallic conductors.
Discoveries in the field of Quantum computing have seen a lot of activity over the past month and it seems to be getting more active time goes on. Particularly – in the case of new materials having multiple quantum states.
Last week scientists discovered how to create several quantum states in a single material by varying the width of a graphene nano-ribbon. A little earlier then that they found multiple quantum states in another material, except for in that case – the generation of these states more random.
The National Science Foundation has also issued a grant to a multidisciplinary, multiinstitutional team for the development of the first ever practical quantum computer.