A computer chip based on the esoteric science of quantum mechanics has been created by researchers at the University of Michigan. The chip might well pave the way for a new generation of supercomputers.
Employing the same semiconductor-fabrication techniques used to create common computer chips, the Michigan team was able to trap a single atom within an integrated chip and control it using electrical signals.
Two Places at Once
As of yet, the technology is not applicable to typical desktop PCs or servers, but quantum computers are said to be promising because they can solve complicated problems using massively parallel computing.
That is accomplished by the quirky nature of quantum mechanics, said Christopher Monroe, a physics professor and the principal investigator and co-author of the paper "Ion Trap in a Semiconductor Chip." He explained that that chips can process multiple inputs at the same time in the same device.
"With quantum mechanics, an object can be in two places at the same time, as long as you don't look at it," he said. The quantum computer architecture can store quantum bits (qubits) of information, where each qubit can hold the numbers one or zero, or even both digits simultaneously.
When a qubit is added to a quantum system, the computing power doubles. Thus, the quantum machine can crunch numbers at a rate that is exponentially faster than conventional processors, said Monroe.
Researchers Develop Quantum Processor
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