A new generation of quantum computers that can carry out billions of calculations in a fraction of a second are on the drawing board.
Scientists have completed the last piece in the jigsaw needed to build a fully working quantum machine.
A team at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, has rebuilt the standard silicon chip that powers computers to accommodate quantum gates.
Instead of binary 1 and 0 on or off switches, the new chips allow switches to work in both states at the same time, which vastly improves performance.
To do this, the gate spins an electron to open and close the pathway much faster than on a conventional chip.
Building blocks ready
Until now, the limits of binary silicon chips have restricted scientists in designing quantum computers.
Their thinking was computers would have to undergo a complete redesign of every component to access the processing power of quantum technology.
The new silicon chip means this is not necessary as components will only have to undergo upgrading.
The scientists managed this by changing the silicon chip’s transistors from running binary gates to qubit gates.
The benefits of quantum computing will revolutionise sectors such as technology, pharmaceuticals and finance as complex calculations that current computers can take weeks or months to complete.
“All the blocks needed to build a quantum computer are now available but have not yet been assembled,” said a university spokesman.
“We still have a way to go, but building the computer is now feasible with this leap forward.”
The university is readying a patent for the chip and seeking commercial partners to produce the components.
One of the major applications of quantum technology is potentially cryptanalysis.
Due to their speed, quantum chips can decode encrypted information much faster than a normal computer. Password crackers work by suggesting responses to a question and running through algorithms until the required response is discovered.
Quantum computers will do this job quicker and may render current password technology redundant.
Other scientists are investigating the potential of quantum computing, including online data giant Google, which has teamed up with space agency NAS and the Universities Space Research Association to experiment with artificial intelligence.