Hot Quantum Bits: A step closer to a more practical quantum computer

We are closer to solving the temperature problem in quantum computing.

One of the significant challenges for quantum computers is that they work at temperatures that are fractions of degrees above absolute zero. The quantum computing chip operates at 0.1 Kelvin, which is much colder than deep space. The cost to achieve such temperature runs in multi-million dollars in refrigeration units. Also, other circuits that are required to operate the chip cannot function at such low temperatures.

Professor Andrew Dzurak’s research team at the University of South Wales Sydney has addressed one of the hardest obstacles making quantum computers a step closer to real-world applications. The researchers have developed a proof of concept quantum-processor unit cell on a silicon chip that operates at 1.5 Kelvin. It is still a low temperature but is 15 times warmer than the technology developed by IBM, Google, and others.

IBM’s Q System One, an experimental quantum computer with a flashy design. | Image: IBM

What is Quantum Computing?

In quantum computing, a quantum bit or qubit is the basic unit of information; this is somewhat analogous to the bit used in our classical computing. A bit can represent either true or false, on or off. Similar to bit, the qubits can be in 1 or 0 when measured. However, qubits use quantum-mechanical phenomena like entanglement and superposition. It allows them to exists in multiple states at the same time till measured. In simple terms, qubits can hold a One, a Zero, or any proposition of both one and zero at the same time.

How are qubits implemented?

Researchers have implemented qubits is several physical representations, to name a few:

  • Polarization of light – Horizontal or Vertical
  • Electron spin – Up or Down
  • The spin of atomic nuclei – Up or Down

Quantum computers can solve many advanced algorithms such as Shor’s algorithm for integer factorization and Grover’s algorithm for the searching of a database that is non-structured.

The Challenge

A quantum computer will require millions of qubit pairs for use in practical applications. It would be a daunting task for the designers, as every pair added to the system increases the total heat generated. Hence the current design is to keep the system close to absolute zero. The cost of a refrigeration system to main this temperature would be monumental.

The proof of concept unit cell developed by Professor Dzurak’s team comprises of two qubits confined in a pair of quantum dots embedded in silicon. Existing silicon chip manufacturers can fabricate the scaled-up version without needing to build a new fabrication setup. The chip would operate at relatively higher temperatures, without the need for a multi-million dollar refrigeration system. Also, conventional silicon chips that are needed to control the quantum processor can be integrated with ease.

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Source: Phys.org

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