Single Atom Transistor Recipe Sets The Stage For Quantum Computers
Some really smart researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and some of their colleagues at the University of Maryland developed a step-by-step recipe to produce the atomic-scale devices. Atomic scaled devices is the heart of quantum computing. Said in a very simple way; “quantum” is the Latin word for “amount” and is the smallest possible physical unit which has energy (or matter).
These really smart scientists demonstrated they could precisely control the flow of electrons through a really small physical gap or electrical barrier, known as a transistor. The hard thing is controlling the flow of energey (electrons) through stuff that is really, really small, like an atom. What the team came up with, is a reciepe to create atoms that could be controlled with electrons.
In really simple terms, this is the recipe:
The team used a known technique in which a silicon chip is covered with a layer of hydrogen atoms, which readily bind to silicon.
Used a fine tip, like really fine tip, scanning microscope and removed hydrogen atoms at selected parts of the silicon.
What was left is a hydrogen barrier with only certain parts removed from the scanning device (above).
Next, the team directed some phosphine gas at the silicone and the gas covered the hydrogen atoms but leaked through where hydrogen atoms had been removed.
As the last step, the smart guys heated the silicone which created a reaction. The reaction created a foundation of a series of highly stable, single atom devices that act like a quibit… or bit.
This is all a bit overwhelming to understand so the below video will help. The exciting thing is a repeatable process has been defined to make a single quantum unit programmable. Translated into day-to-day applications, there is great hope we will all get computers 100x more powerful than today’s in about the size of an Apple watch.