≑ Menu

Scientists Foresee Quantum Leap In Computing

British scientists have created miniscule quantum silicon chips, a development they describe as a major building block in the creation of super powerful quantum computers within a decade.

Original story by Jim Drury for Reuters:

Transcript:Β Its creators believe this tiny silicon chip represents a landmark step on the path to quantum computers. University of Bristol PhD student Josh Silverstone says it will help solve problems that conventional microelectronic circuits cannot answer, by using particles of light.

Josh Silverstone, Off Camera, saying:

“We inject the light through an optical fibre here – the width of a hair. It goes on to a silicon chip, propagates around and then is collected by these two output fibres on this side.”

Quantum computers could enable scientists to slice through sophisticated encryption schemes and filter complex databases with unparalleled efficiency. Silverstone and his colleagues say they’ll be capable of complex calculations beyond the reach of today’s most sophisticated super-computers…leading to the development of new materials like pharmaceuticals. The team have spent three years building the chips to store the quantum information, two millimetres long by four millimetres high, and half a millimetre thick.

Soundbite (English) PhD student at Bristol’s Centre For Quantum Photonics, Josh Silverstone, saying:

“On it are some miniscule silicon wave guides, about half a micron thick, so two thousand in a hair kind of thing. So that’s here, there’s a microscope above, which is projected on this screen up here…..You can see the fibres coming in from the left and right and the chip in the centre, the black slab.”

The chips manipulate single particles of light, known as photons, to perform calculations The Bristol team, led by Professor Mark Thompson, are collaborating with scientists in Europe and Japan. Thompson says the silicon chip marks a huge improvement on the glass-based version.

Soundbite (English) Mark Thompson, Deputy Director of The Centre For Quantum Photonics in The University’s School of Physics, saying:

“This first device here is a glass wave guide device and that’s about five years old and it has on it about 30 individual elements and we use this to show some of the first demonstrations of an integrated quantum circuit. Now what I have here is the latest generation of device… made from silicon and, as you can see, it’s much much smaller but …. on this particular device there’s over 300 individual components and this allows much greater power for this particular device.”

Silicon is used routinely to build the tiny electrical processors in all computers and smart phones, so these chips are compatible with existing optical fibre infrastructure. They make possible the creation of hybrid quantum-conventional microprocessors within a decade and, Thomson says, could be adapted for use in mass-manufacturing sooner.

oundbite (English) Mark Thompson, Deputy Director of The Centre For Quantum Photonics in The University’s School of Physics, saying:

“We’re optimistic that using the technologies we’ve developed here that we will be able to develop microchips that can perform tasks that current computers can’t perform, probably within a time-frame of five years or less.”

Computing has developed dramatically over the decades, with processor’s sizes decreasing in inverse proportion to vast increases in memory and power. Mark Thompson and his team say they’re confident that the next step in computing technology will, in fact, be a quantum leap.

Like this article?

Please help me produce more content:



Please subscribe for free weekly updates:

  • Matthew Chorey

    Very exciting!

  • Yeap, I feel the same way! πŸ˜‰

  • Lu Lu

    There is already a company, D-Wave, that claims to produce and sell real, working “quantum computers”. Despite this, I don’t see much approval from Umesh Vazirani and Scott Aaronson.
    Would you please do a interview with a scienist on quantum computing about their opinion on D-Wave, Socrates?
    It would also be great if you can contact and do a interview with D-Wave researchers and staffs.

  • This is a great suggestion indeed. So, I will try to make it happen!

  • Lu Lu

    Maybe I can help you out a bit since I live in the city where their (D-Wave Systems) headquarter is (Burnaby, BC, Canada).

  • Well, that will be super cool πŸ˜‰

  • Lu Lu

    I recommend you to read Scott Aaronson’s 3 blog posts on D-Wave systems (first one (negative) in 2007 http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=198, second one in 2011 http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=639 and third one in 2012 http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=954)

    According to Wikipedia entry on D Wave, Scott Aaronson is “skeptic but positive” about the company after his 2011 visit.
    BTW, Burnaby is also the site of the controversial General Fusion
    Company(http://www.generalfusion.com/), IMHO another interview-worthy company (for yuor blog and other tech blogs/magazines).

  • Lu Lu

    If they really have quantum computers, my guess is that inevitably they will hoard the tech and profiteer. Let’s hope some Robinhood-type (like Aaron Swartz) can *steal* (the righteous action) for the rest, 99% of us.
    I also wonder wha effect this have on the OpenCog project by Ben Goertzel if we run AI programs in a quantum computer.

Over 3,000 super smart people have subscribed to my newsletter: