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article imageComplete quantum silicon chip design revealed by researchers

By James Walker     Dec 19, 2017 in Technology
Researchers have announced a "complete" design for a quantum silicon computer chip. The component allows quantum calculations to be run on existing semiconductor components. The blueprint shows how a quantum computer could be made from standard tech.
Quantum semiconductors
The design for the chip was completed by Australian and Dutch engineers at the University of South Wales (UNSW). It was published in the journal Nature Communications this week. The chip's architecture is described as a "novel" way to build a functioning quantum computer from components that form the basis of regular computing hardware.
Artist s impression of a silicon CMOS architecture for a spin-based quantum computer.
Artist's impression of a silicon CMOS architecture for a spin-based quantum computer.
© Illustration by Tony Melov / UNSW
Research into quantum computers is now rapidly accelerating. Engineering teams at some of the world's largest tech firms have functioning quantum computer prototypes with speeds up to 50 qubits. The design developed by the UNSW team is significant because it achieves quantum performance on regular silicon.
According to the researchers, the new chip can theoretically scale up to thousands of qubits. The team has signed an A$83 million with partners including Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian and New South Wales governments to build a functioning 10-qubit prototype by 2022.
Technological leap
Andrew Dzurak, director of the UNSW Australian National Fabrication Facility and the chip's designer, said the development could help usher in the next "technological leap." By enabling quantum processing on top of existing silicon architectures, the production of quantum hardware will be simplified. The chip could be constructed at existing semiconductor fabrication plants.
"With quantum computing, we are on the verge of another technological leap that could be as deep and transformative [as microprocessor chips]," said Dzurak. "But a complete engineering design to realise this on a single chip has been elusive. I think what we have developed at UNSW now makes that possible. And most importantly, it can be made in a modern semiconductor manufacturing plant."
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The team have yet to actually construct their design or finalise the underlying science. Elements of the overall design have been tested in the lab and the "groundwork is there" to construct a functioning prototype. The group is now preparing to start development of the concept with its partners as a new commercial enterprise called the Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd.
The breakthrough is the latest major step forward as quantum computers come closer to real-world use. This month, Microsoft launched a new quantum computing toolkit for developers designed to let programmers start writing quantum apps today. As quantum research starts to deliver hardware, the focus will shift towards building software capable of utilising quantum features.
More about Quantum, quantum computing, Silicon, Processors, qubits