Have you sometimes found that when you’re facing a really tough problem, an old kindergarten trick can sometimes work quite perfectly? Well apparently that can extend to quantum computers as well. At the University of Toronto, researchers have combined superconducting materials and semiconducting materials using good, wholesome two-sided Scotch tape.
Quantum computing is a highly exciting research area for physics. The theoretical implications of quantum-enabled computers are incredibly dramatic. When we finally manage to harness the quantum computer it will be set to reform the computing industry as we know it. The problem is building one that can actually be used.
Right now, information is stored in “bits”, which operate by binary, storing either a 1 or a 0. Quantum computers are to operate using “qubits” which exist in such a way that they can store multiple values at the same time – meaning that they can hold hell of a lot more information than normal bits. They’re kinda like superhero versions of bits.
The real problem is that qubits exist in a fragile quantum state – they need to interact but as soon as they start to influence one another, they “decohere” and no longer store multiple values. Decoherence is the qubit kryptonite, and reverts these superhero bits to plain boring binary bits.
So in order to help qubits retain their superpowers, it has been proposed that we used superconductors. Superconductors conduct energy efficiently without resisting electrons or leaking heat, and all the electrons are in a single quantum state. This will reduce the decoherence effect on the qubits.
But we need to find a way to install superconducting material (which needs to operate at about 90 degree Kelvin, which is very, very cold) into our laptops and smartphones. We need to promote our semiconducting materials and give them superconducting powers.
And that’s when we come to the scotch tape. The researchers at University of Toronto have stuck a semiconducting compound onto double-sided tape and then stuck high-temperature superconductors onto another piece of tape and then made a sandwich out of the two of them.
The findings are published in an online journal called Nature Communications. They’re calling the technique a “physics first”. I would suppose that a quantum physicist would have laughed if you had told them one day they might be holding together their quantum computers with plain old Scotch tape.
But there you have it – one day you might see Scotch tape designs within yours smartphones being battled out in court cases between rival technological companies.