The Era of Quantum Computing Microprocessors Dawns

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The Era of Quantum Computing Microprocessors Dawns

Many of the toughest problems in medicine, chemistry, nano-technology and cyber-security, simply can’t be solved using conventional digital computing technology.  That’s where quantum computing comes in.  And that’s why, when we wrote Ride the Wave, we identified quantum computing as one of the 12 crucial technologies needed to fully realize the potential of the Digital Techno-Economic Revolution.

Unfortunately, creating a general-purpose quantum computer has proven to be overwhelmingly difficult.  And the resulting hardware prototypes have proven about as reliable and maintainable as the original vacuum tube technology used in the Eniac system.  Today’s only commercial quantum computer is from D-Wave Technologies; it uses a highly specialized approach called “quantum annealing” to solve a narrow range of optimization problems for cutting-edge companies, like Google and Lockheed-Martin, who are willing to pay over $10 million per machine.

In the meantime, research teams all over the world have been exploring different ways to design a working computer that can integrate quantum interactions.  But, a complete engineering design to realize this on a single chip has been elusive.

However, that’s about to change. It seems we are on the verge of a technological leap that could be as deep and transformative as the original microprocessor release in 1973.

Engineers at the University of New South Wales, or UNSW, believe they have solved the problem by re-imagining the silicon microprocessors we know, to create a complete design for a quantum computer chip that can be manufactured using mostly standard industry processes and components.

The new chip design, published recently in the journal Nature Communications, involves a novel architecture that allows quantum calculations to be performed using existing CMOS technology, the basis for all modern chips. As remarkable as they are, today's computer chips cannot harness the quantum effects needed to solve the important problems that quantum computers will.  The power of the new design is that, for the first time, it charts a conceivable engineering pathway toward creating a machine with millions of quantum bits, or qubits.

To solve problems that address major global challenges -- like secure encryption or complex diseases -- it's generally accepted that we will need millions of qubits working in tandem. To do that, we will need to pack qubits together and integrate them, like we do with modern microprocessor chips. That's what this new design aims to achieve...

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