The world’s biggest supercomputer

UNSW
UNSW Sydney is leading the race to build the world’s biggest quantum computer.

UNSW Sydney is leading the race to build the world’s biggest computer, called a quantum computer, using silicon.

Quantum computing differs from the computers we use today that process data in binary ones and zeroes. In quantum computing qubits can be one and zero at the same time allowing for radical leaps in processing power and the calculation of complex questions in days as opposed to millions of years.

The UNSW Sydney team led by Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T), recently achieved a world first by building a quantum logic gate in silicon. This gate allows for calculations between two qubits of information.

“The international race to build a super-powerful quantum computer has been described as the space race of the computing era,” said Professor Michelle Simmons.

“Our Australian centre’s unique approach using silicon has given us a two to three-year lead over the rest of the world.”

UNSW team leader, Andrew Dzurak, said in contrast to other quantum research teams around the world who are using different materials in their research, silicon is cost efficient.

“Our quantum bits are just modified silicon transistors that you see in manufacturing,” said Andrew. “So we can leverage trillions of dollars of sunk investment by the computer chip industry. That really is the killer result from a commercial perspective."

With quantum computers, modelling complex environments for the climate or economy, mining massive databases, and designing un-hackable systems all become possible.

Andrew said 2020 was a realistic target for a prototype quantum computer that could do certain calculations better than existing computers. A longer horizon is expected for a computer that can solve commercially significant problems.

UNSW Sydney has the biggest and best ranked engineering faculty in Australia. It’s Science faculty is a world leader in materials science and psychology, and has a strong international reputation.

Timeline

2012: a team led by Professor Simmons (Science) creates the world’s first single‑atom transistor, ten years ahead of industry predictions

2012: researchers led by UNSW Professor Andrea Morello (Engineering) create the world’s first qubit based on the spin of a single electron on a single phosphorus atom embedded in silicon

2013: UNSW Scientia Professor Sven Rogge (Science) demonstrates the ability to optically address a single atom, a method that could allow the long-distance coupling of qubits

2014: Professor Morello’s team demonstrates that qubits in silicon can be engineered to have the longest coherence times (greater than 30 seconds) and highest fidelities (>99.99%)

2015: researchers led by Professor Dzurak (Engineering) build the first quantum logic gate in silicon

2015: the Australian Government commits $26 million to CQC2T, followed by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Telstra each pledging $10 million

2016: CQC2T unveils a new laboratory at its UNSW headquarters, doubling capacity. The new lab will be used to build a ten-qubit prototype quantum integrated circuit within five years

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