University of Michigan researchers have created a computer chip based on quantum mechanics.
Using an ion trap the Michigan team was able to trap a single atom within an integrated chip and control it using electrical signals:
Electrically charged atoms (ions) for such quantum computers are stored in traps in order to isolate the qubits, a process that is essential for the system to work.
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In the chip created at Michigan, which is the size of a postage stamp, the ion is confined in a trap while electric fields are applied. Laser light puts a spin on the ion's free electron, enabling it to flip it between the one or zero quantum states.
The spin of the electron dictates the value of the qubit. For example, an up-spin can represent a one, or a down-spin can represent a zero -- or the qubit can occupy both states simultaneously.
According to NewsFactor Magazine, the quantum processor is made of gallium arsenide in a layered structure and etched with electrodes using lithography. Each electrode is connected to a separate voltage supply, and these various electrical voltages control the ion by moving as it hovers in a space carved out of the chip.