An Aussie Quantum Breakthrough Years Ahead of Schedule

An Aussie Quantum Breakthrough Years Ahead of Schedule
Image: SQC

This week was a big one for quantum computing in Australia. Aussie company Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC) announced the world’s first integrated circuit manufactured at the atomic scale. While that’s a big deal in and of itself, its development was a whopping two years ahead of schedule.

SQC has a vision of creating faster, more efficient computers that will become the world’s most powerful artificial intelligence machines. But, in a way that’s for the betterment of humankind.

The young company is led by Professor Michelle Simmons, who is quite well-known for her work at UNSW in leading Australia down a path of quantum success.

SQC has created an integrated quantum processor to accurately model the quantum states of a small, organic polyacetylene molecule which will help create new materials. While that’s a lot to wrap your head around, the scientific breakthrough will allow SQC to help industries construct quantum models for a range of new products such as pharmaceuticals, materials for batteries and catalysts.

Delivery of this atomic-scale integrated circuit, which operates as an analogue quantum processor, has come less than a decade after the team’s 2012 declaration that it had fabricated the world’s first single atom transistor and has been achieved two years ahead of schedule.

“This is a major breakthrough,” said Simmons. “Today’s classical computers struggle to simulate even relatively small molecules due to the large number of possible interactions between atoms. Development of SQC’s atomic-scale circuit technology will allow the company and its customers to construct quantum models for a range of new materials, whether they be pharmaceuticals, materials for batteries, or catalysts. It won’t be long before we can start to realise new materials that have never existed before.”

Speaking about the breakthrough, Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic said what SQC is doing is “going to revolutionise computing”.

“We are world-leading in this technology, and we will basically become the centre, I think, if we play our cards right with quantum technology in the years ahead,” he added.

Although SQC’s breakthrough is stellar, this week also saw a focus on something the Australian government hasn’t given too much attention to over the last few years. So much so, they’re making a $1 billion bet on Australia’s tech talent.

On Thursday, Husic talked more about the pre-election promise of a $1 billion Critical Technology Fund, forming part of the broader National Reconstruction Fund.

He reckons this will help support home-grown innovation and production in areas like engineering, data science, software development, AI, robotics and quantum.

$4 million for up to 20 PhDs in quantum research will be provided, to encourage universities to establish national research and education partnerships and hopefully bring about more outcomes like the integrated quantum processor.

If Aussie unis weren’t already kicking butt on the global stage, it was also announced that an international team of researchers has developed a scanning tool to make websites less vulnerable to hacking and cyberattacks.

The black box security assessment prototype, announced by UniSA, is more effective than existing web scanners which collectively fail to detect the top 10 weaknesses in web applications.

“We have previously been outdone by other nations … what we have is Australian talent feel like they’re not being valued on home soil and they’ve left. We’re going to change that,” Husic said. “We have to change that.”

Gosh, it’s good to hear technology is understood by Ministers and that it’s back on the agenda of the Australian government.

This article has been updated since it was first published.