Quantum leap in computing as Bristol scientists develop ‘spooky’ silicon chips

September 4, 2012

From Bristol 24-7 www.bristol247.com

Computers and mobile phones that run on technology that spooked Albert Einstein could be on sale within a few years, thanks to work led by scientists in Bristol.

Quantum computing, which uses circuits that operate with light instead of electricity, could lead to far faster and more powerful computers and encryption systems far more secure than anything available today.

Scientists from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Quantum Photonics have developed new quantum chips from silicon, rather than glass, making them compatible with existing electronics.

But unlike conventional silicon chips that work by controlling electrical current, these circuits manipulate single particles of light to perform calculations.

They can exploit, for example, the ability for a photon to be ‘entangled’ – or in two places at once – meaning the circuits can influence each other instantaneously, no matter how far apart they are.

Einstein found entanglement so hard to swallow he dismissed it as ‘spooky action at a distance’.

Centre for Quantum Photonics deputy director Mark Thompson said: “Using silicon to manipulate light, we have made circuits over 1,000 times smaller than current glass-based technologies. It will be possible to mass-produce this kind of chip using standard microelectronic techniques, and the much smaller size means it can be incorporated in to technology and devices that would not previously have been compatible with glass chips.

“This is very much the start of a new field of quantum-engineering, where state-of-the-art micro-chip manufacturing techniques are used to develop new quantum technologies and will eventually realise quantum computers that will help us understand the most complex scientific problems.”

The team will be showing off their quantum circuits at the British Science Festival which opens at the University of Aberdeen today.

Pictured: Top right, example of a silicon quantum chip next to a 20p coin

Bottom right, PhD student Erman Engin measuring the performance of a silicon quantum chip

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