New chip could lead to era of ultra-fast, powerful computing
Published Monday, September 3, 2012 5:42PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 3, 2012 6:07PM EDT
A group of scientists have developed a quantum computer chip that could lead to ultra-fast computer processors, which would outperform those found in today’s standard electronics and smartphones.
The group, led by researchers from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Photonics, will unveil the new silicon quantum chip at the 2012 British Science Festival, which starts Tuesday.
The new silicon chips are significant because they work by manipulating light particles to perform calculations, an improvement over current chips that use electrical currents.
The new chips are also 1,000 times smaller than older chips made of glass, and could eventually be used to develop tiny hybrid processors – a mix of conventional and quantum processors -- in all computers and smartphones.
The centre’s deputy director Mark Thompson said the development of the new, smaller chips means researchers can use the technology in devices that were previously not compatible with older chips.
This means new areas of science can be explored, said Thompson.
“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 realize quantum computers that will help us understand the most complex scientific problems,” he said in a press release.
One way the team plans to use the new chips is to create safer communication in today’s electronic devices, by creating completely secure environments for online activities such as shopping and banking.
The new chips transmit information in a specialized quantum state that changes whenever someone tries to intercept the data. This makes it impossible for someone to grab information undetected. And because of their tiny size, the chips could eventually be installed in today’s thin smartphones, tablets and computers, protecting the devices from hackers.
Eventually the research team believes the new chip will lead to the development of a fully-functioning quantum processor -- a powerful type of computer with unprecedented computing power. A quantum computing device is powerful enough to solve trillions of equations at a time.
A quantum processor could used be in a number of different applications, including the design of new materials and pharmaceuticals.