Building quantum computers from scratch

Researcher devises method that could one day make building nanoscale computers far easier

A University of Maryland researcher has come up with a method that he says could one day be used by companies to build nanoscale computer and mobile phone components faster and less expensively.

Ray Phaneuf, associate professor of materials science and engineering at the A. James Clark School of Engineering, compared his idea to self-assembly processes in nature, such as crystallization.

Phaneuf has built a photolithography- and etching-based template that nature can use to assemble atoms into predefined patterns for creating such things as laptop semiconductors, wearable device sensors and mobile phone components. His work has focused on silicon and gallium arsenide. Silicon is the prevalent material for components in computers while gallium arsenide is used more often in mobile phones.

"While we understand how to make working nanoscale devices, making things out of a countable number of atoms takes a long time," Phaneuf said in a statement. "Industry needs to be able to mass-produce them on a practical time scale."

Such device could even be used some day in building the "qubits" that serve as the basis of advanced quantum computing machines, Phaneuf says.

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