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Diamond idea for quantum computer

The long-touted idea of ultra-high speed computing takes another step closer. All it requires is one of the world’s hardest materials.

Quantum mechanics isn’t what it used to be. Several decades ago it was all about how, at the very small scales of atoms, energy comes in chunks or “quanta”: not continuous, like water, but discrete, like money. Even light is grainy, divided up into little packets of energy called photons.

But never mind all that. Today, quantum physicists aren’t really talking about quanta, they’re talking about information. They suspect that at its root quantum mechanics is a theory about what can and can’t be known about the world. The famous uncertainty principle, and the idea that quantum objects might be either here or there, are examples of that idea.

It’s not all theory, though. The new view offers potential applications in the form of so-called quantum information technology: ways of storing, transmitting and manipulating information that work using quantum rules rather than the “classical” rules of our everyday world. The most celebrated manifestation of this technology is the quantum computer, which could exploit quantum principles to achieve far greater power than the devices on which I’m writing and you are reading.

Although it’s clear to those in the field how quantum computers should work, no one knows how to make one. Scientists have made “toy” quantum computers with just a handful of bits (compared to the billions in your smart phone), and some companies are even starting to offer primitive versions for sale – to the skepticism of some experts. But despite ta tantalizing eports of incremental breakthroughs over the past few years, there’s still no prospect that you’ll have a useful quantum laptop in the coming future.

However, scientists in Germany have just reported what could be a significant step forward. They say that the ideal material for a quantum computer could be diamond.

Don’t despair – that doesn’t mean they will cost the earth. The very thin films of diamond needed for such devices don’t have to be mined; they can be made artificially from carbon-rich gases such as methane. It’s not exactly cheap, but neither are the methods needed to make semiconductor films for a host of existing electronic devices.

Read full story on BBC News

Category: World News |

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Last updated December 10, 2016 at 5:27 PM
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