Using a single phosphorus atom embedded in a silicon crystal, physicists have built a working transistor, laying the groundwork for a quantum computer that is smaller than today's silicon-based machines, and may one day function in nanoscale environments. Quantum computers may make it possible to quickly simulate molecular structures, a promising advance for designing new drugs and other materials. While some say that the research is a major step toward a functioning quantum computing system, others are uncertain if a quantum computer will be harnessed for useful tasks. The physicists’ work also demonstrated fundamental limits that today's computers would be able to shrink to.

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