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Quantum Computer Almost Here? Scientists Discover A New, Reliable Way To Measure "Qubits" [VIDEO]

Apr 18, 2013 12:45 PM EDT

Quantum computers may be just around the corner thanks to the recent discovery by physicists at the University of New South Wales in Australia that a reliable reading can be drawn based on the rotations of the nucleus of a single atom positioned in a silicon chip.

"We have adapted magnetic resonance technology, commonly known for its application in chemical analysis and MRI scans, to control and read-out the nuclear spin of a single atom in real time," said Associate Professor Andrea Morello in a press release.

Previous attempts at developing a quantum computer have centered on trapping an atom in an electromagnetic vacuum chamber.

The way the team has designed it, a computer would be able to read the direction of the atom's nucleus, up or down, the same way computers today read in a binary code of ones and zeros.

For this reason, the success and failure of a quantum computer depends on the reliability of the machine's interpretation of the nucleus' positioning - something the scientists believe they are closing in on.

"We have achieved a read-out fidelity of 99.8 percent, which sets a new benchmark for qubit accuracy in a solid-state device," said Professor Andrew Dzurak.

These qubits, or quantum bits, are the building blocks of quantum computers and, as the researchers point out, by placing the atom in a silicone chip, it will be more easily operated electrically.

"Silicon is the dominant material in the microelectronics industry, which means our qubit is more compatible with existing industry technology and is more easily scalable," Morello said.

Once complete, a quantum computer will be far more capable than machines today when it comes to searching expansive databases, cracking modern encryption and modelling atomic-scale systems, including biological molecules and drugs.

As for the team, in the future they hope to demonstrate quantum memories and two-qubit logic gates as well as improve the accuracy of their nuclear and electron spin qubits even further by using a purer form of silicon.

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