Australians make conductors only 3 atoms across
By making conductors only three atoms across the researchers at the Centre for Quantum Computing Technology in Sydney, Australia are testing the practical limits of fabrication. The conductors were created by placing single phosphorus atoms in a wafer of silicon, using a scanning tunneling microscope.
Michelle Simmons, program manager at the University of New South Wales research centre said "We are interested in the fundamentals of what can and can't be done," – "The semiconductor industry must figure out when Moore's law will fail."
Moore's law was proposed in a 1965 paper by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore. Moore observed a trend in the semiconductor industry for the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit to increase exponentially, doubling approximately every two years. In practice this means that transistors must continue to shrink in size. At some point Moore's law must fail when it becomes impossible to make working devices that are any smaller. At present, no one is really sure where this limit lies.
IBM, like many of the heavyweights in computer research, is conducting its own investigations into nanotechnology and quantum devices. The company has expressed interest in the work being done in the Australian labs with its possible application to new device architectures and the CQCT team is now collaborating with IBM.
Atom sized devices are seen as the key to building the much discussed quantum computer because quantum effects are only revealed at the atomic scale. Working quantum computers would result in a huge jump in computing power. Their ability to factor very large prime numbers, very quickly, has obvious applications in the field of encryption.