Quantum computers could soon be a reality
The breakthrough in silicon — the basis of the computer chip — has important implications for integration with existing technology, according to a team of international scientists.
The team, which comprised scientists from Britain, Japan, Canada and Germany, believe that super-fast quantum computers, based on quantum bits, called qubits, will be able to test many possible solutions to a problem at once.
Traditional computers are based on binary switches, or bits, and can only perform one task at a time.
"Creating ten billion entangled pairs in silicon with high fidelity is an important step forward for us," Dr John Morton of Oxford University was quoted as saying by a newspaper.
"We now need to deal with the challenge of coupling these pairs together to build a scalable quantum computer in silicon," Dr Morton added.
According to scientists, quantum entanglement involves the notion that particles can be connected in such a way that changing the state of one instantly affects the other, even when they are miles apart.
Albert Einstein once famously described it as "spooky action at a distance". Other areas of quantum-related research include ultra-precise measurement and improved imaging.
For this research, the multi-national team used high magnetic fields and low temperatures to produce entanglement between the electron and the nucleus of an atom of phosphorous embedded in a silicon crystal.
The procedure was applied in parallel to a vast number of phosphorous atoms, the scientists said.
According to them, the electron and the nucleus behave as a tiny magnet, or so-called `spin`, each of which can represent a bit of quantum information.
When controlled in the right way, these spins can interact with each other, they said.
Stephanie Simmons, an Oxford University researcher who also worked on the team, said: "The key to generating entanglement was to first align all the spins by using high magnetic fields and low temperatures.
"Once this has been achieved, the spins can be made to interact with each other using carefully timed microwave and radio frequency pulses in order to create the entanglement, and then prove that it has been made."
The researchers detailed their work in the journal Nature.