Australian Scientists Are Really Killing It With This Quantum Computing Thing

Prototype of the microwave circulator, next to an Australian five cent piece (19.41mm diameter).

A team of researchers at the University of Sydney and Microsoft just made a "microcircuit" using an entirely new phase of matter (yes you read that right), based on a theory that was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics.

This is incredible.

"Topological insulators" is what the researchers have used, for the first time, anywhere in the world, in a practical application. They work like insulators, as well as having surfaces that act as conductors. They can be used to make the circuitry needed for the interaction between quantum and classical systems - crucial for making a quantum computer work.

So basically, what the team have made, using these topological insulators, is a mini microwave circulator.

Microwave circulators act like a traffic roundabout - making sure electrical signals only go in one direction. It's not unlike what can be found in mobile phone base stations and radar systems. We're going to let a lot of them when making quantum computers. The problem though, is that they are pretty big - about the size of your hand.

This microcurcuit though? It's 1000 times smaller than a normal microwave circulator. A thousand.

They've pulled off this world-first by using topological insulators to slow the speed of light in the material. By making them super tiny, a whole bunch of circulators can be put on a chip and manufactured in the large quantities that will be needed to build quantum computers.

The leader of the Sydney research team, Professor David Reilly, explained that the work to scale-up quantum computing is driving breakthroughs in related areas of electronics and nanoscience.

"It is not just about qubits, the fundamental building blocks for quantum machines. Building a large-scale quantum computer will also need a revolution in classical computing and device engineering," Professor Reilly said.

"Even if we had millions of qubits today, it is not clear that we have the classical technology to control them. Realising a scaled-up quantum computer will require the invention of new devices and techniques at the quantum-classical interface."

University of Sydney PhD candidate and lead author of the paper, Alice Mahoney, in the quantum labs in the Sydney Nanoscience Hub.

Lead author of the research paper, and PhD candidate Alice Mahoney said the compact circulators could be implemented "in a variety of quantum hardware platforms, irrespective of the particular quantum system used."

We are still a few years away from having a practical quantum computer, but when we get one up and running, Scientists are looking forward to solving currently unsolvable computations in chemistry, drug design, climate and economic modelling, and cryptography.

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Comments

    My gosh can't Turnbull do anything right? Just cut education funding enough to stop our universities from discovering or inventing anything of value. And what's even worse, our universities are allowing women to put their names on papers. I agree with Turnbull: Australia should only import technology/science and only if it was created by men (and oked by Murdoch).

      I will assume that this comment is sarcasm? Well I hope so.

    How Stupid!! Yes, keep boasting like this and you will alert the Chinese/Russians/et al to target you and hack into your system and steal your secrets. Keep quiet about it and you become less of a target. If you really want to boast, and some of us do, provide scant details on who actually made the discovery. PhD student Alice Mahoney, as cited in the article, needs to change all her passwords and related login material, as she is now a target...

      Who cares? Wouldn't that lead to me getting a quantum computer even faster?
      Imagine how far advanced the world would be if stupid sh*t like patents didn't hold everything back.

        Patents are pretty important. If institutions (research or commercial) can't leverage their discoveries to recoup research costs what incentive have they for investing in conducting R&D in the first place? Elon is lucky enough to be in a position to not care about money before someone trots out Tesla's release of their patents as a counter argument. Few academic institutions are in a similar position, and fewer companies are that altruistic (not to say they shouldn't be). Ultimately, research costs money. That's the world we live in.

        That said, some review of patents' periods of effectiveness should be explored.

      Keep quiet about it and struggle to get funding.

      Also a little difficult to keep quiet about these things if you want them published in quality peer reviewed journals.

    Slow the speed of light? I thought that was a constant? So constant that time changes in order to maintain its constancy?

      It is a constant 299793 km/s in a vacuum. It travels slower when travelling through other media. For example, light through optic fibre travels about 30% slower.

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