20 September 2012


Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research

Australian research breaks through computing barrier

An Australian research team has made a major computing breakthrough that will revolutionise the way data is processed and dramatically increase the number crunching capacity of future supercomputers.

The significance of the team’s finding has been recognised by its publication today in the international scientific journal Nature.

The Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, today welcomed the breakthrough by the team, led by researchers at the University of New South Wales, on the successful creation of the first working ‘quantum bit’ based on a single atom in silicon.

“This breakthrough could result in a transformation similar to the development of transistors for electronic circuitry in 1947,” Senator Evans.

“The project is an example of how world-class Australian research drives innovation.”

The research team is led by Dr Andrea Morello and Professor Andrew Dzurak at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology.

In current computing, information is represented as ‘bits’, a code made up of zeros and ones stored in transistors on a silicon chip.

A quantum computer needs an equivalent ‘quantum bit’, or ‘qubit’. The Australian team has coded data on a qubit comprising a single phosphorus atom, implanted next to a specially designed silicon transistor.

As qubits are added to a quantum computer its ability to perform calculations increases, opening the way to solving problems that are currently impossible for even the world’s largest supercomputers.

These include the development of new medicines, which would be sped up greatly by the computer-aided design of pharmaceutical compounds, reducing the timescale for medical trials and finding cures faster.

The team used the facilities at the Australian National Fabrication Facility, which receives $91 million from the Australian Government to support 21 research institutions across Australia.

The ARC Centre of Excellence involves six participating universities including UNSW and the University of Melbourne, and will receive $24.5 million in funding over seven years to support the work of high-quality multi-disciplinary researchers in the field of Quantum Computation and Communication Technology.

Senator Evans’ Media Contact:
Amy McKenna 0408 570 603