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Atomic-scale quantum circuit marks major quantum computer breakthrough

Sydney engineers have demonstrated a quantum integrated circuit made up of just a few atoms. By precisely controlling the quantum states of atoms, the new processor can mimic the structure and properties of molecules in such a way as to unlock new materials and catalysts.

The new quantum circuit comes from researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and a start-up company called Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC). It is essentially composed of 10 carbon-based quantum dots encased in silicon, with six metal gates that control the flow of electrons through the circuit.

It sounds simple enough, but the key lies in the arrangement of these carbon atoms down to the sub-nanometer scale. Relative to each other, they are precisely positioned to mimic the atomic structure of a particular molecule, allowing scientists to mimic and study the structure and energy states of that molecule more accurately than ever before.

In this case, they arrange the carbon atoms into the form of the organic compound polyacetylene, which is composed of a repeating chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms with an alternating pattern of single and double carbon bonds between them. . To mimic the bonds, the group placed carbon atoms at different distances.

Next, the researchers ran an electrical current through the circuit to check if it matched the signature of a natural polyacetylene molecule – and sure enough, it did. In other tests, the team created two different versions of the chain by cutting the chains in different places, and the resulting currents would match the theoretical predictions perfectly.

The importance of this new quantum circuit, the team says, is that it can be used to study more complex molecules, which can eventually yield new materials, pharmaceuticals, or catalysts. This 10-atom version is only at the limit of what classical computers can do, so the team’s plans for a 20-atom quantum circuit will allow for the simulation of more complex molecules in first time.

“Most of the other quantum computing architectures out there don’t have the ability to engineer atoms with sub-nanometer accuracy or allow atoms to sit close together,” said Professor Michelle Simmons, lead researcher. in the study. “And so that means that now we can identify more and more complex molecules based on putting atoms in place as if they mimic the real physical system.”

The research was published in the journal NATURE.

Source: UNSW, SQC

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