Breakthrough Brings Network of Super-Fast Quantum Computers Closer to Reality

Quantum computers promise to deliver a huge increase in processing power over conventional computers by using a single electron or nucleus of an atom as the basic processing unit. Researchers from Australia's University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, and the University of Melbourne have achieved a breakthrough that brings the prospect of a network of ultra-powerful quantum computers, connected via a quantum internet, closer to reality. The team has detected the spin, or quantum state, of a single atom using a combined optical and electrical approach. This was achieved with a single atom of erbium – a rare earth element commonly used in communications – embedded in silicon. The team used an ion implanter to shoot erbium atoms into a standard industrial silicon transistor. When the atom was in a particular quantum state and laser light was shone on it, an electron was knocked off the atom. This was detected electrically, by the silicon transistor switching on.