If we had a quantum computer, it would be much easier for scientists to conduct virtual experiments to simulate quantum systems. It would also be much more efficient when searching through massive amounts of data, being able to conclude its search in a significantly smaller amount of time than today’s computers.
Unfortunately, we don't have a quantum computer.
For that to happen, engineers need to fully understand how they can control quantum bits or qubits. Thus far, these can only be created by exploiting the structural atomic defects in diamond. This makes them very expensive to manufacture.
However, researchers from the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory now believe that they might be able to engineer the same defect using a less expensive material...aluminum.
Aluminum nitride has been identified as a possible candidate for the production of qubits. Using the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center’s (NERSC) Edison supercomputer, the researcher’s were were able to discover that applying strain to aluminum nitride created similar structural defects that they could potentially harness as qubits; the same way it is created when a nitrogen atom settles in a diamond’s carbon lattice.
And if further experiments prove that the ideas withstand scientific scrutiny, it could allow us to use qubits in semiconductors, which are already reaching their physical limits.
Ultimately, the team behind the work thinks that their research will pass all tests with flying colors, and that cheap qubits will be a reality in the next five to ten years.
The team's research was published in Nature, and they will be following it up with efforts to test these theoretical predictions in a lab setting.