Researchers from RIKEN in Japan have made a critical step toward large-scale quantum computing by showing error correction in a three-qubit silicon-based quantum computing device. This study, which was reported in the journal Nature, may contribute to developing useful quantum computers.

Because they promise to resolve significant issues that can’t be resolved by conventional computers, quantum computers are currently a hot topic of research. They use superimposition states of quantum physics in place of the simple 1 or 0 binary bits seen in conventional computers. Due to their fundamentally different construction, they are however extremely vulnerable to background noise and other issues, such as decoherence, and require error correction to do accurate calculations.

Choosing the optimal systems to act as the “qubits,” or fundamental components required to do quantum calculations is a difficult task. Every potential system has benefits and drawbacks of its own. Superconducting circuits and ions are two of the most widely utilised systems today. They have the advantage of having some form of error correction shown, allowing them to be used in practical applications, albeit on a small scale.

Silicon-based quantum technology, which has only recently begun to be developed, uses a semiconductor nanostructure similar to that routinely used to integrate billions of transistors on a small chip, it may be able to take advantage of already-in-use manufacturing technologies.

The lack of technology for error connection is a significant issue with silicon-based technologies. Two-qubit control has already been shown by researchers, but error correction requires a three-qubit system, which has not yet been achieved.

A three-qubit system, one of the largest qubit systems in silicon, was fully controlled in the current study by researchers from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science and the RIKEN Center for Quantum Computing. This achievement allowed for the creation of the first silicon prototype for quantum error correction. They accomplished this by putting in place a Toffoli-type quantum gate with three qubits.

This is a serious breakthrough in the field of quantum computing and can only lead the quantum supercomputer space hotting up with competing technologies from global research centres.  

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