Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia have created a transistor using quantum dots, 10 times smaller than traditional transistors used in today's computer chips, according to IEEE Spectrum. The quantum dots, when working together in large groups, may allow for quantum computing. Similar studies have been done with few quantum dots in laboratories, with technology that takes up an entire room, but that technology was limited and was only able to connect a limited number of quantum dots--that is, until now.
A quantum dot is a basically a tiny pool of electrons inside of a semiconducting material. Each dot has what is called a “spin,” which can be either up or down, or even both. This mechanical property called the spin can be translated into information, called quantum information, or qubits.
One YouTube video (embedded above) shows what thousands of quantum dots--excited by a laser--look like.
Since individual quantum dots can be in two states at once, computers can make many calculations at once, thus making the sought-after quantum computer. In fact, the dots don't even need to be next to each other; they can be at a distance, similar to the electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) effect where a laser can be made to do the same thing as the other at a distant.
The researchers were able to use traditional chip-making technology to suspend the transistors--that is, they were placed within a silicon crystal. Seven atoms in the crystal were replaced with phosphorus atoms to create the quantum dot transistor.
In the past, quantum dots were typically made by suspending atoms in chemical solutions or in magnetic fields, but the problem is that chemical solutions and magnetic fields would simply be too large and/or incompatible with current technology. So they found a way to create the quantum dot inside of a silicon crystal.
Scientists are working on developing single-atom transistors, which are many times smaller than current technology. This means that computer chips will not only be many times faster but will be capable of having much more crammed into them.
While there are still many steps to be taken toward quantum computing such as making hundreds, thousands, and millions of the quantum dots work together, this is still one more step towards a faster tomorrow.
[via IEEE Spectrum]
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