Wed, 25 May 2022

SYDNEY, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers said they have proven that "near error-free quantum computing is possible," paving the way to build silicon-based devices compatible with current semiconductor manufacturing technology.

Andrea Morello, Scientia Professor of Quantum Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), said the research showed it was "possible to build quantum computers that have enough scale, and enough power, to handle meaningful computation."

"Our operations were 99 percent error-free," Morello said. "When errors are so rare, it becomes possible to detect them and correct them when they occur."

"Before this breakthrough, the error rates of silicon quantum computers were so problematic that any attempt to fix them would actually make the matter worse, like playing whack-a-mole," he told Xinhua on Thursday.

The research findings, published in the scientific journal Nature on Thursday, noted the team had achieved "1-qubit operation fidelities up to 99.95 percent, and 2-qubit fidelity of 99.37 percent with a three-qubit system comprising an electron and two phosphorous atoms, introduced in silicon via ion implantation."

"This means we are now at the level of performance where making a bigger and more powerful quantum computer actually makes sense, because the extra qubits can be used to help correct the rare errors," he said.

Morello, an electrical engineer and a quantum physicist, has previously demonstrated that he could preserve quantum information in silicon for 35 seconds.

"In the quantum world, 35 seconds is an eternity," he said. "To give a comparison, in the Google and IBM superconducting quantum computers the lifetime is about a hundred microseconds -- nearly a million times shorter."

But the trade-off was that isolating the qubits made it seemingly impossible for them to interact with each other, as necessary to perform actual computations.

The Nature report reveals how the UNSW team overcame that problem by using an electron encompassing two nuclei of phosphorus atoms.

"If you have two nuclei that are connected to the same electron, you can make them do a quantum operation," said Mateusz Madzik, one of the lead research authors.

"While you don't operate the electron, those nuclei safely store their quantum information. But now you have the option of making them talk to each other via the electron, to realize universal quantum operations that can be adapted to any computational problem."

Morello said that having established an error rate of below one percent, the next project would be to "start designing silicon quantum processors that scale up and operate reliably for useful calculations."

"A great aspect of this story is that the low error rates in silicon have been achieved, at the same time, by three different research groups around the world," he said, referring to comparable studies coming out of the Netherlands and Japan.

"The whole community is maturing together, thanks to the free and open circulation of ideas, people and materials."

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