Oz trouncing US in race for a quantum computer?

author: Robert R. Tucci
date: May 2001

The Semiconductor Nanofabrication Facility (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) has a very promising project in progress to build a solid state quantum computer. This very short but interesting news item comes from news.com.au. In case the link to it breaks in the future, here is a copy of it:
From www.news.au, Oct 7, 2000:

AUSTRALIA is determined to win the race to develop the world's first quantum computer, the head of a Sydney-based research centre said yesterday.

"We want to build a working quantum computer and we want to build it first, that's our objective," director Professor Robert Clark said at the opening of the new Centre for Quantum Computer Technology at the University of NSW.

"We're not making a computer that is just a bit more powerful -- we're talking about a computer that will literally change the world if it can be built," Professor Clark said.

Australia's biggest competitors are the US and Japan, with computer giant IBM working on a slightly different model.

See cond-mat/0104569 Hurray for the Aussies! According to this beautiful paper, the Aussies have succeed in implanting Phosphorus qubits in Silicon in a controlled way. A nanotech tour de force and probably the hardest part of their design. They still have to grow a layer of silicon and some electrodes over the whole thing. But this last part seems easier compared with implanting the qubits. And they've only been at it for less than 3 years! (the US, in comparison, has been funding quantum computer construction for about  twice as long with very little to show for it, with the brilliant exception of NIST's work) If the Aussie's continue at this blazing pace without hitting any major snags, it is quite possible that they will have a functional solid state quantum computer in the next 5 years.

Of course, quantum decoherence will be a serious, maybe even unsurmountable, obstacle for the Oz quantum computer. For more about this, look at this paper, where Bruce Kane, inventor of the device, tries to predict sources of decoherence in his design. And in this paper, John Sidles et al discuss thermal magnetic noise as a source of quantum decoherence in Kane's design.

John Sidles is well qualified for discussing quantum noise and decoherence. He has a PhD in High  Energy Physics but now works in Medical Physics. He is the inventor of the Magnetic Resonance Force Microscope (MRFM), a microscope that may achieve the holy grail of imaging complex molecules in real-time, 3-d, and with single-atom resolution. MRFM is potentially an extremely revolutionary tool, in the esteemed and level headed opinion of Freeman Dyson. Here is what Dyson said about the MRFM in early 1998.

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