A recent article on Phys.org has announced a breakthrough in quantum computing. The article, Crucial hurdle overcome in quantum computing, describes how a team at University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney Australia has created a working quantum gate in silicon. This process paves the way for quantum computing to become a reality in the years to come. Background on quantum computing can be found in this Cluster Monkey article: A Smidgen of Quantum Computing

According to Dr. Menno Veldhorst, a UNSW Research Fellow and the lead author of the Nature paper:

"We've morphed those silicon transistors into quantum bits by ensuring that each has only one electron associated with it. We then store the binary code of 0 or 1 on the 'spin' of the electron, which is associated with the electron's tiny magnetic field."

Why is this important?

The breakthrough comes from using standard semiconductor fabrication techniques to create qbits. If this process can be scaled, this means that large quantum computers can be built using thousands of qbits. There is no mention of the operating temperature of these devices, however. Entangled quantum states, necessary for computing, are very fragile and easily lost due to external conditions. In addition, quantum computing results tend to be noisy and many "runs" must be performed before a statistically significant result can be achieved.

A recent announcement by (maybe) quantum computer manufacturer D-Wave indicates that Google and NASA have signed a 7-year deal for what is best described as a "quantum annealing processor." (Useful for a subset of applications that solve minimization problems.) However, even though D-Wave touts a 1000 qbit processor, there is no agreement that the machine is actually working as "quantum" annealing computer.

Finally, ignore the headlines about how quantum computing will replace/overtake all other forms of computing and spawn artificial intelligence. There are certainly problems where true quantum computers are projected to perform faster than classical computers (e.g. finance, security, and molecular dynamics), but the quantum overlords are still a ways off.

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