Melissa Davey in The Guardian:
Around the world, teams of engineers, physicists, mathematicians and engineers are using all kinds of exotic materials in the race to build the world’s first practical quantum computer, capable of processing amounts of data in a matter of hours that would take today’s computers millions of years.
Caesium, aluminium, niobium titanium nitride and diamond are among the substances being used by researchers trying to determine which will best allow particles to maintain a delicate quantum state of superposition, where particles exist across multiple, seemingly counterintuitive states at the same time.
But the decision by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia to use cheap and widely available silicon, the building block of all modern electronic devices, has led to significant advances in their attempts to win the quantum race.
The team’s members believe that because silicon is already widely available and used in devices like laptops and mobile phones it will be easier to manufacture and upscale the world’s first functioning quantum computer. And their faith in it has paid dividends.
So groundbreaking have their discoveries been that in December, Telstra announced an in-principle commitment of $10m over the next five years to the team at the university’s centre of excellence for quantum computation and communication technology, and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia also pledged $10m.
Prof Michelle Simmons is director of the centre and an internationally renowned quantum researcher.