Complete design of a silicon QUANTUM computer chip is revealed in a step towards creating unhackable, superpowerful PCs

Researchers from the University of New South Wales developed the microchip

Engineers have been unable to work with standard materials to build them

The new chip uses existing components to perform quantum operations

The breakthrough could help bring about a quantum computing 'revolution'

Experts believe the machines could solve scientific problems like climate change or cure complex diseases like cancer

It's a problem being worked on by researchers around the world, and now scientists have finally designed a computer chip that can integrate quantum interactions.

Scientists have re-imagined the silicon microprocessors we know to create a complete design for the 'elusive' quantum computer chip.

The team even suggests that the chip could be manufactured using existing industry standard processes and components.

If successful, the processor would be able to perform mind-boggling calculations to solve scientific problems like climate change or cure complex diseases like cancer.

it could also lead to unhackable communication.

Scientists have finally designed a computer chip that can integrate quantum interactions. The scientists have re-imagined the silicon microprocessors we know to create a complete design for a quantum computer chip (artist's impression pictured)

THE MICROCHIP

The design incorporates conventional silicon transistor switches to 'turn on' operations between quantum bits (qubits) in a vast two-dimensional array, using a grid-based 'word' and 'bit' select protocol similar to that used to select bits in a conventional computer memory chip.

By selecting electrodes above a qubit, the researchers found they could control a qubit's spin, which stores the quantum binary code of a 0 or 1.

And by selecting electrodes between the qubits, two-qubit logic interactions, or calculations, can be performed between qubits.

Qubits can store information in binary code – as a 0, a 1, or an arbitrary combination of 0 and 1 at the same time.

Quantum computers can store multiple values at once, and also process them simultaneously, doing multiple operations at once.

This would allow a universal quantum computer to be millions of times faster than any conventional computer when solving a range of important problems.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales developed the microchip, which allows quantum calculations to be performed using existing semiconductor components.

Known as complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors (CMOS), they are the basis for all modern chips.

Dr Andrew Dzurak, who worked on the chip, said: 'We often think of landing on the moon as humanity's greatest technological marvel.

'But creating a microprocessor chip with a billion operating devices integrated together to work like a symphony - that you can carry in your pocket - is an astounding technical achievement, and one that's revolutionised modern life.

'With quantum computing, we are on the verge of another technological leap that could be as deep and transformative.

'But a complete engineering design to realise this on a single chip has been elusive. I think what we have developed at UNSW now makes that possible.

'And most importantly, it can be made in a modern semiconductor manufacturing plant.'

The microchip could pave the way towards creating millions of quantum bits, or qubits, according to the researchers.

Dr Menno Veldhorst, who led the study, said: 'Remarkable as they are, today's computer chips cannot harness the quantum effects needed to solve the really important problems that quantum computers will.

'To solve problems that address major global challenges, it's generally accepted 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.'

The new design incorporates conventional silicon transistor switches to 'turn on' operations between qubits in a vast two-dimensional array.

It uses a grid-based 'word' and 'bit' select protocol similar to that used to select bits in a conventional computer memory chip.

By selecting electrodes above a qubit, the chip can control a qubit's spin, which stores the quantum binary code of a 0 or 1.

And by selecting electrodes between the qubits, two-qubit logic interactions, or calculations, can be performed between qubits.

Qubits can store information in binary code – as a 0, a 1, or an arbitrary combination of 0 and 1 at the same time.

The design incorporates conventional silicon transistor switches to 'turn on' operations between quantum bits (qubits) in a vast two-dimensional array, using a grid-based 'word' and 'bit' select protocol similar to that used to select bits in a conventional computer memory chip (artist's impression pictured)

Quantum computers can store multiple values at once, and also process them simultaneously, performing multiple operations at once.

This would allow a universal quantum computer to be millions of times faster than any conventional computer when solving a range of important problems.

But to solve complex problems, a useful universal quantum computer will need millions of qubits.

Dr Dzurak explained: 'So we need to use error-correcting codes which employ multiple qubits to store a single piece of data.

Professor Andrew Dzurak (pictured left) and Dr Menno Veldhorst (pictured right) explain the new design

'Our chip blueprint incorporates a new type of error-correcting code designed specifically for spin qubits, and involves a sophisticated protocol of operations across the millions of qubits.

'It's the first attempt to integrate into a single chip all of the conventional silicon circuitry needed to control and read the millions of qubits needed for quantum computing.

'We expect that there will still be modifications required to this design as we move towards manufacture, but all of the key components that are needed for quantum computing are here in one chip.

'And that's what will be needed if we are to make quantum computers a workhorse for calculations that are well beyond today's computers.

RESEARCHERS REVEAL BLUEPRINT FOR A QUANTUM COMPUTER

Researchers have unveiled what they say is the first practical blueprint for the 'holy grail' of computing - a quantum computer.

Scientists from the University of Sussex led a team of experts from around the world, including Google, revealing their findings in February.

They say their work has the potential to revolutionise industry, science and commerce on a similar scale as the invention of ordinary computers.

If it works, it will be a real-life version of Deep Thought, the supercomputer programmed to solve the 'ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything' in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

They have released the plans in the hope other teams will build and test the machines.

The quantum computer has to the potential to be more powerful in solving certain problems than any computer ever constructed before.

As a next step, the team will construct a prototype quantum computer, based on this design, at the University, and say it could be operational within two years.

Once built, researchers say the computer's capabilities mean it 'would have the potential to answer many questions in science; create new, lifesaving medicines; solve the most mind-boggling scientific problems; unravel the yet unknown mysteries of the furthest reaches of deepest space; and solve some problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.'

'It shows how to integrate the millions of qubits needed to realise the true promise of quantum computing.'

Building such a universal quantum computer has been called the 'space race of the 21st century'.

For a range of calculations, they will be much faster than existing computers, and for some challenging problems they could find solutions in days, maybe even hours, when today's best supercomputers would take millions of years.