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Quantum computing takes a giant leap forward with breakthrough discovery

Scientists have produced an enhanced, ultra-pure form of silicon that allows the construction of high-performance qubit devices. This fundamental component is crucial for paving the way towards scalable quantum computing.

The finding, published in the journal Communications Materials – Nature, could define and push forward the future of quantum computing.

Ultra-pure silicon and the quantum revolution

The research was led by Professor Richard Curry from the Advanced Electronic Materials group at The University of Manchester, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne in Australia.

“What we’ve been able to do is effectively create a critical ‘brick’ needed to construct a silicon-based quantum computer,” Professor Curry excitedly proclaimed.

“It’s a crucial step to making a technology that has the potential to be transformative for humankind – feasible; a technology that could give us the capability to process data at such as scale, that we will be able to find solutions to complex issues such as addressing the impact of climate change and tackling healthcare challenges,” Curry continued.

Challenges in quantum computing

One of the biggest challenges in the development of quantum computers is that qubits, the building blocks of quantum computing, are highly sensitive and require a stable environment to maintain the information they hold. Even tiny changes in their environment, including temperature fluctuations, can cause computer errors.

Another issue is their scale, both their physical size and processing power. Ten qubits have the same processing power as 1,024 bits in a normal computer and can potentially occupy a much smaller volume.

Scientists believe a fully performing quantum computer needs around one million qubits, which provides capability unfeasible by any classical computer.

Understanding qubits and their role in quantum computing

Qubits, or quantum bits, are the fundamental building blocks of quantum computers, analogous to bits in classical computers. However, qubits have several unique properties that differentiate them from classical bits:


While classical bits can only be in one of two states (0 or 1), qubits can exist in a superposition of multiple states simultaneously. This means that a qubit can represent a combination of both 0 and 1 at the same time, enabling quantum computers to perform many calculations in parallel.


Qubits can be entangled with each other, meaning that their quantum states are correlated, even if they are physically separated. This property allows quantum computers to perform certain computations much faster than classical computers.


Qubits are highly sensitive to their environment and can easily lose their quantum state, a process called decoherence. This is one of the main challenges in building stable, large-scale quantum computers.

Quantum gates

Operations on qubits are performed using quantum gates, which are the quantum equivalent of logic gates in classical computers. These gates manipulate the quantum states of qubits to perform computations.


When a qubit is measured, it collapses from its superposition state into a definite state of either 0 or 1. The outcome of the measurement is probabilistic and depends on the qubit’s initial quantum state.

Error correction

Due to the fragility of qubits, quantum error correction techniques are necessary to maintain the integrity of quantum computations. These techniques involve using multiple qubits to encode and protect the information stored in a single logical qubit.

Researchers are exploring various physical systems to implement qubits, such as superconducting circuits, trapped ions, photons, and silicon-based spin qubits.

Each approach has its own advantages and challenges, and the choice of qubit technology depends on factors such as scalability, error rates, and ease of manipulation.

Silicon is the key to scalable quantum computers

Silicon is the underpinning material in classical computing due to its semiconductor properties, and researchers believe it could be the answer to scalable quantum computers.

However, natural silicon is made up of three atoms of different mass (called isotopes) — silicon 28, 29, and 30. The Si-29, making up around 5% of silicon, causes a ‘nuclear flip flopping’ effect, causing the qubit to lose information.

Scientists at the University of Melbourne have come up with a way to engineer silicon to remove the silicon 29 and 30 atoms, making it the perfect material to make quantum computers at scale, and with high accuracy.

The result — the world’s purest silicon — provides a pathway to the creation of one million qubits, which may be fabricated to the size of a pinhead.

“The great advantage of silicon quantum computing is that the same techniques that are used to manufacture the electronic chips — currently within an everyday computer that consist of billions of transistors — can be used to create qubits for silicon-based quantum devices,” noted Ravi Acharya, a PhD researcher who performed experimental work in the project.

“The ability to create high quality Silicon qubits has in part been limited to date by the purity of the silicon starting material used. The breakthrough purity we show here solves this problem,” Acharya continued.

Surpassing supercomputers: The power of just 30 qubits

The new capability offers a roadmap towards scalable quantum devices with unparalleled performance and capabilities and holds promise of transforming technologies in ways hard to imagine.

“Our technique opens the path to reliable quantum computers that promise step changes across society, including in artificial intelligence, secure data and communications, vaccine and drug design, and energy use, logistics and manufacturing,” explained project co-supervisor, Professor David Jamieson, from the University of Melbourne.

“Now that we can produce extremely pure silicon-28, our next step will be to demonstrate that we can sustain quantum coherence for many qubits simultaneously. A reliable quantum computer with just 30 qubits would exceed the power of today’s supercomputers for some applications,” Jamieson concluded.

While still in the early stages of quantum computing, once fully developed, quantum computers will be used to solve real-world complex problems, such as drug design, and provide more accurate weather forecasts — calculations too difficult for today’s supercomputers.

Bright future for quantum computing

In summary, the pioneering discovery of ultra-pure silicon by scientists at The University of Manchester and the University of Melbourne marks a significant milestone in the journey towards scalable quantum computing.

This achievement aligns with the 200th anniversary of The University of Manchester, which has been at the forefront of science innovation throughout its history, including Ernest Rutherford’s ‘splitting the atom’ discovery in 1917 and the first-ever real-life demonstration of electronic stored-program computing with ‘The Baby’ in 1948.

The research produced by these brilliant scientists paves the way for the construction of high-performance qubit devices, bringing us closer to a future where quantum computers can solve complex real-world problems that are beyond the capabilities of today’s supercomputers.

As researchers continue to push the boundaries of quantum computing, we can expect to see transformative advancements across various fields, from artificial intelligence and secure communications to vaccine design and weather forecasting.

The quantum revolution is on the horizon, and the creation of the world’s purest silicon is a crucial step towards making it a reality.

The full study was published in the journal Communications Materials – Nature.


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