Researchers in Australia
have found a new way to build quantum computers
which they say would make them dramatically easier and cheaper to produce at scale.
promise to harness the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at a time to solve problems that are too complex or time-consuming for existing computers.
and other technology
companies are all developing quantum computers, using a range of approaches.
The team from the University of New South Wales say they have invented a new chip design based on a new type of quantum bit, the basic unit of information in a quantum computer, known as a qubit.
The new design would allow for a silicon quantum processor to overcome two limitations of existing designs: the need for atoms to be placed precisely, and allowing them to be placed further apart and still be coupled. Crucially, says project leader Andrea Mello, this so-called "flip-flop qubit" means the chips can be produced using the same device technology
as existing computer chips. "This makes the building of a quantum computer
much more feasible, since it is based on the same manufacturing technology
as today's computer industry," Mello said.
That would allow chips for quantum computers
to be mass-manufactured, a goal that has so far eluded other researchers.
IBM's quantum computer
in the United States has 16 qubits, meaning it can only perform basic calculations. Google's computer has nine qubits.
A desktop computer runs at gigaflops. The world’s fastest supercomputer, China’s Sunway TaihuLight, runs at 93 petaflops, but relies on 10 million processing cores and uses massive amounts of energy.
In theory, even a small 30-qubit universal quantum computer
could run at the equivalent of a classic computer operating at 10 teraflops.
Laszlo Kish, a professor at Texas A&M University, said it was too early to say if the research was a breakthrough "but it may be a step in the proper direction" in solving some of the key obstacles to quantum computing.