I’m no scientist, but this news still blows my mind. Researchers at the University of NSW have created the world’s narrowest silicon wires — just four atoms wide and one atom high — and found that it conducts electricity just as well as copper.
This has two very big implications. The first is as further proof that Ohm’s Law stays true, right down to the atomic level, proving that electrical resistivity does not rely on the wire’s width.
The second implication is much more exciting — these tiny silicon wires are crucial in realising our future of quantum computing. As Professor Michelle Simmons from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the University of New South Wales explains:
“Driven by the semiconductor industry, computer chip components continuously shrink in size allowing ever smaller and more powerful computers.
“Over the past 50 years this paradigm has established the microelectronics industry as one of the key drivers for global economic growth. A major focus of the Centre of Excellence at UNSW is to push this technology to the next level to develop a silicon-based quantum computer, where single atoms serve as the individual units of computation.
“It will come down to the wire. We are on the threshold of making transistors out of individual atoms. But to build a practical quantum computer we have recognised that the interconnecting wiring and circuitry also needs to shrink to the atomic scale.”