Quantum leap: One-atom thick supercomputer

Melbourne: Australian scientists along with another international team claim to have designed a tiny crystal, made of just 300 atoms, capable of running a quantum computer so powerful that it would take a computer of the size of the known universe to match it.

    According to ABC report, the details of the ion crystal which has been designed by Australia, South Africa and US, have been published in the journal Nature on Thursday.

    The device, known as a quantum simulator, is just one-atom thick.

    “We’ve surpassed the computational potential of this system relative to classical computers by 10 to the [power of] 80, which is 80 orders of magnitude, a really enormous number,” University of Sydney’s Michael Biercuk said.

    Quantum computing is a kind of information science that is based on the notion that if one performs computations in a fundamentally different way than the way your classical desktop computer works, there’s a huge potential to solve a variety of problems that are very, very hard or near impossible for standard computers, he said.

    Biercuk added, “If you wanted to think how big a classical computer would need to be in order to solve this problem of roughly 300 interacting quantum particles, it turns out that that computer would need to be the size of the known universe — which is clearly something that’s not possible to achieve.”

    He said the central element is something like a millimetre in diameter, 300 atoms that are suspended in space.

    “But of course everything depends on a huge amount of technical infrastructure around it. So there are vacuum chambers and pumps and lasers, and all of that takes up something like a room.

    “The quantum computer will move to a stage where it is so far out in front and performing such complex tasks it will be difficult to check if it is working accurately. They’re not easily checked by a classical computer which opens a whole variety of problems,” Biercuk said.

    Biercuk said the tiny device’s role was like that of a scale model of an aircraft wing, which engineers might test in a wind tunnel to try to design a better plane.