(Left) Dr. Andrea Morello (Right) Prof. Andrew Dzurak (via UNSW)
The days of quantum computing are one step closer thanks to researchers at the University of New South Wales' School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications. Dr Andrea Morello and Professor Dzurak leading a team of researchers, have become the first ones to successfully read and write information to an electron in silicon. The ground breaking paper was published in the journal Nature, in which they describe just how an electron bound to a single phosphorus atom, embedded in silicon, is capable of storing information.
Concept of operation. The red dot is a phosphorus atom with a silicon single-atom transistor. Information is written to the electron spin via microwave radiation (via UNSW)
Using an electron's spin, or magnetic orientation, the team showed that information can be represented just as it is in current computing, using zeros and ones. An electron spinning clockwise(“up”) would represent a one while an electron spinning counter-clockwise (“down”) would represent a zero. Furthermore, working at the quantum levels, particles have the unique ability to exist in two different states at once. Also known as superposition, this property will allow quantum computers to solve complex problems that not even today's supercomputers can handle.
Dzurak stated, “This is a remarkable scientific achievement-governing nature at its most fundamental level-and has profound implications for quantum computing.” To successfully “write” information to the electrons, the team used a microwave field to control the electron. Using a quantum transistor specially designed to let current flow only when an electron's spin is up, the team was able to see the information being manipulated through an oscilloscope. The team is now working on assembling a logic gate, the next step towards creating quantum computers. It is possible within the next couple of years we could be seeing a revolution in computing.