Supercharged silicon superposition smashes records

Summary:Superposition, the weird quantum state of existing in two places at once, is a notoriously unstable condition. But now a team of scientists at Oxford University, Simon Frase University and Berlin University report that they have managed to coax a the spins of ultra-pure silicon’s atomic nuclei to remain superpositioned for an astonishing three minutes and 12 seconds.

Superposition, the weird quantum state of existing in two places at once, is a notoriously unstable condition. But now a team of scientists at Oxford University, Simon Frase University and Berlin University report that they have managed to coax a the spins of ultra-pure silicon’s atomic nuclei to remain superpositioned for an astonishing three minutes and 12 seconds.

The University says (in its press release) that this is over 100 times longer than the previous record, which was set by the same team back in 2008.

Professor Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University, Canada, who led the team said that the achievement would have been unthinkable only a few years ago: "It’s by far a record in solid-state systems. If you’d asked people a few years ago if this was possible, they’d have said no."

He notes that the results mean silicon can now be considered a base for future quantum computers: "You can start to do things that people thought you could only do in a vacuum."

"Silicon is the platform on which all of our current computing technology is based on," said Dr John Morton of Oxford University’s Department of Materials.

"It's both remarkable and incredibly exciting that the same platform could host quantum computation, as it means the two approaches could be combined on the same chip to make hybrid processors: this work means you really can imagine a standard silicon chip having 'Quantum Inside'."

We’re sure Intel just loved that last bit.

The work is published in the June 8 edition of the journal Science.

Topics: Graphene

About

Lucy Sherriff is a journalist, science geek and general liker of all things techie and clever. In a previous life she put her physics degree to moderately good use by writing about science for that other tech website, The Register. After a bit of a break, it seemed like a good time to start blogging about weird quantum stuff for ZDNet. An... Full Bio

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