A new breed of faster, more powerful computers based on quantum mechanics may be a step closer to reality, report scientists from Purdue and Duke universities.
As part of an effort to make superpowerful quantum computers, Purdue University researchers have created "quantum dots" in a semiconducting material known as gallium arsenide. The quantum dots (the two small circular areas shown adjacent to one other in the center of the image) are puddles of about 40-60 electrons. Together the dots can form part of transistors in which the electrons spin, a quantum mechanical property, could be harnessed to make logic gates for next-generation computer chips. Each dot measures only about 180 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in diameter — about 5,000 of them could stretch across the width of a grain of sand. (Illustration by Albert Chang, Duke University Department of Physics)
By linking a pair of tiny "puddles" of a few dozen electrons sandwiched inside a semiconductor, researchers have enabled these two so-called "quantum dots" to become parts of a transistor – the vital switching component in computer chips. Future computers that use quantum dots to store and process digital information might outperform conventional computer circuits because of both the new transistors smaller size and their potential to solve problems that would take centuries on todays machines.
"This is a very promising candidate for quantum computation," said Albert M. Chang, who is an adjunct professor of physics in Purdues School of Science. "We believe this research will allow large numbers of quantum-dot switches to work together as a group, which will be necessary if they are ever to function as a computers brain, or memory.
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