A qualitative leap that promises scientific breakthroughs… the manufacture of the first ever quantum circuit | Sciences

It was science fiction to make a high-temperature superconductor without losing energy in the form of heat, so no one knows how it works.

Australian scientists have created the world’s first quantum computer circuit, containing all the basic components found in an ordinary computer chip but on a quantum scale. This historic achievement, which was published in Nature on June 22, has been under investigation for 9 years.

Quantum computing is a modern way of designing microprocessors based on the laws of quantum physics, rather than the way a traditional computer works.

The most exciting discovery

“This is the most exciting discovery of my career,” lead researcher and quantum physicist Michelle Simmons, founder of Silicon Quantum Computing and director of the Center of Excellence for Quantum Computing and Communications Technology at the University of New South Wales, told Science Alert.

Not only have Simmons and her team created what is essentially a functional quantum processor, they have also successfully tested it by modeling a small molecule where each atom has multiple quantum states, something that a conventional computer cannot achieve, and this indicates that we are now finally close to using the power of quantum processing. To understand more about the world around us, even if on the smallest scale.

Polyacetylene was chosen to be used to prove that the computer was simulating the movement of electrons through the molecule (foreign press)

“In the 1950s, Richard Feynman said that we will never understand how the world works, that is, how nature works, until we really start making it at the same scale,” Simmons told Science Alert. made before.”

How do we control nature at this level?

The latest invention comes after the team created the first quantum transistor in 2012, a small device that controls electronic signals and forms only one part of a computer circuit, while the integrated circuit is more complex because it brings many transistors together.

To make this leap in quantum computing, the researchers used a high-vacuum medium scanning tunneling microscope to position the quantum dots precisely under a nanometer. Polyacetylene molecule.

The hardest part was figuring out exactly how many phosphorous atoms there should be in each quantum dot, and exactly how far apart the dots must be, and then engineering a machine that could fit the tiny dots in exactly the right order inside the silicon chip.

It was science fiction to make a high-temperature superconductor without energy loss in the form of heat (foreign press)

The researchers say that if the quantum dots are too large, the interaction between two dots becomes “too large to be independently controlled” and if the dots are too small, this will happen randomly because each additional phosphorous atom can drastically change the amount of energy needed to add an electron Another to the point.

Polyacetylene as a model

The final quantum slide contained 10 quantum dots, each consisting of a small number of phosphorous atoms. Carbon double bonds were simulated by placing less space between quantum dots compared to single carbon bonds. Polyacetylene was chosen because it is a well-known model, and can therefore be used to demonstrate That the computer was correctly simulating the movement of electrons through the molecule.

Quantum computers are needed because classical machines cannot model large molecules; It is very complex. for example; To create a simulation of a 41-atom penicillin molecule, a classical computer would need 10^86 transistors, “more than the number of atoms in the visible universe” but for a quantum computer, it would only require a processor containing 286 qubits.

Because scientists currently have limited insight into how molecules work at the atomic level, there is a lot of guesswork about creating new materials. “It has been a lot of science fiction to make a superconductor at a high temperature (without energy loss in the form of heat) so no one knows how it works,” Simmons says.

The transition from a quantum transistor to a quantum circuit in just 9 years is an early leap (Shutterstock)

Possible applications and an early leap

A potential application of quantum computing is the study of artificial photosynthesis, how light is converted into chemical energy through a series of organic reactions.

Quantum computers can also help solve one of the fertilizer industry problems. Currently, nitrogen triple bonds are broken under high temperatures and pressure in the presence of an iron catalyst to create stable nitrogen for fertilizers. Finding a different catalyst to make fertilizer in a more efficient way can save a lot of money. and energy.

Simmons says that accomplishing the transition from a quantum transistor to an electrical circuit in just 9 years mimics the roadmap set by the inventors of classical computers, as the first classical computer transistor was created in 1947, and the first integrated circuit was built in 1958, meaning that the interval between these two inventions is 11 year. With this, Simmons’ team has made that leap two years ahead of schedule.

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