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Alert! Quantum computer on horizon

Boffins patent improved quantum dot process

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The day when the quantum computer finally appears is edging closer.

The latest step is the simple and fast construction of quantum dots. Researchers at the University of Nebraska claim to have developed an architecture that betters its nearest rivals performance by 500 per cent.

They have created a technique, which has been patented, based on and electrochemical process on an aluminium substrate. Quantum dots "spontaneously" form on the substrate. When the conditions are just right, the dots form in a regular array, making them suitable for processing information.

Supriyo Bandyopadhyay, who led the research team, said that the research had taken around five or six years and was still some way off being perfect. He estimates that another five years of research will be needed to perfect the process.

He commented: "The chemical solution has to be just right, the power level of the electrical current has to be just right and used for exactly the right length of time."

The theory is that with quantum dots* is that we could produce tiny-beyond-tiny computing architectures. These would allow 10,000 devices to fit in the space of a human hair. In other words, Really, very small.

Being able to reliably build matrices of quantum dots is the first step towards producing the much hyped quantum computers,** that Banyopadhyay's group have been researching.

He said that the group had been working on QCs for about three years with some success: "We have succeeded in demonstrating computer memories but we are at least five years away from having a small-scale quantum computer in the lab. Commercial versions won't be available for at least 20 years."

However, the quantum dot research has other applications. Bandyopadhyay says that the group hopes to demonstrate new optical devices based on quantum dots. It could also lead to improvements in night vision technology, infrared imaging and so on. ®

*Really teeny tiny clusters of between 1000 and 10,000 atoms measuring about 20-100 angstroms across. The size is especially important being shorter than an electron wavelength.

**We don't propose to try to explain quantum computers, because it is too hard, and would take up too much space. So click here for everything, and possibly more, that you could ever want to know about quantum computers.

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