The Quantum Gamble

Story by Wilson da Silva (Photography by Quentin Jones)

In the space race of the 21st century, Australia is betting it all on a key group of researchers and their elegant designs for a silicon quantum computer. "There were no silicon quits before we started working on this," says Professor Andrea Morello, winner of the American Physical Society’s inaugural Rolf Landauer and Charles H. Bennett Award in quantum computing in 2017 for work some deemed almost impossible. "We've really contributed to making it work, and it's now created a field. And we're in the lead." In this, Prof Morello is part of a two-man act. His friend and one-time mentor, Prof Andrew Dzurak, who has been working on silicon quantum computing concepts since 1998, lured the young Italian postdoctoral fellow from the University of British Columbia in Canada – where he’d been working at TRIUMF, the venerable national physics laboratory. Morello joined Dzurak in 2006 as a senior research associate at what eventually became UNSW’s Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T). The challenge? To build on UNSW’s promising work on solid-state  quantum devices, utilising the fuzzy superpositioned data that is a feature of quantum computers – known as quantum bits, or ‘qubits’– and develop techniques for quantum control of single atoms in silicon. A decade later, the duo are in the hot seat of what has been called the ‘space race of the century’: the global effort to build super-powerful quantum computers that could solve problems beyond the practical reach of even today’s best computers, like integer factorisation or the simulation of quantum many-body systems. And at CQC2T, the duo are key players in the world’s largest collaboration working to create a complete ecosystem for universal quantum computing.

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