Jewel in the crown for quantum computing

The FET programme is investing heavily in projects that are pushing towards the next big ICT revolution: quantum computing. In a major breakthrough, a European-funded collaboration has successfully grown a pure crystal of diamond which, operating at room temperature, possesses all the properties required to control and read data in a quantum machine.

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Diamond-based quantum computers use electrons to store data bits, and photons (individual packets of light) to read and control the data bits. Diamond has been identified as a promising candidate for solid-state quantum computing; unlike other approaches which generally require complex and expensive cooling systems, diamond can operate at room temperature.

The project 'Engineered quantum information in nanostructured diamond' (Equind) was established to investigate the special optical features of diamond that make it so attractive for quantum processing.

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One of the most exciting properties of these quantum-grade diamonds is their long 'coherence time', the length that single electron spins remain in phase. ‘With these crystals we have been able to control and read information as needed for a practical computer,’ note the researchers in a statement about this breakthrough. ‘We believe that we can scale it up to what we call “a register”, the basic computing heart of a conventional computer used to store and manipulate information.’

The work of Equind and other FET projects like AQUTE and Corner in this field could pave the way for novel computer designs based on quantum mechanics, which govern the behaviour of energy and matter at the atomic scale.

This story and others showcasing EU-funded 'Future and emerging technologies' will appear in issue 9 of research*eu focus, due out April 2011 on CORDIS.