For years scientists have known the merits of quantum computing, but increasingly the business world has shown interest and is now eagerly awaiting its introduction into the mainstream.
Once it's fully developed, it's hoped the technology will perform a far wider range of calculations than any computers already available, and running at speeds we couldn't even fathom using current technology.
But there are also specific benefits for some sectors, including the pharmaceutical industry, where accelerated computer-based medicine design will lead to a much faster rate of drug production by companies. Finance, security and consumer electronics will also receive a huge boost.
While the benefits are clear, there has been a huge obstacle in developing a device capable of performing quantum calculations – creating a quantum computer would have required a total overhaul of the way computers and their internal elements are built, as current computer infrastructure has been incapable of carrying out such complex functions.
Now, a team of researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney has solved this problem by building a silicon chip that can perform qubit calculations – the most fundamental aspect of quantum computing.
Unlike the binary calculations used by current computers, which present data in one of two states: one and zero, in qubit calculations data can exist in both states at once, allowing multiple calculations to be carried out in parallel and drastically increasing the speed at which a machine functions.
The scientists made this possible by reconfiguring a traditional silicon chip's transistors into qubits. More details of the invention can be found in the journal Nature.
"If quantum computers are to become a reality, the ability to conduct one- and two-qubit calculations are essential," said Andrew Dzurak, who co-led the research.
“We've demonstrated a two-qubit logic gate - the central building block of a quantum computer - and, significantly, done it in silicon.
"This makes the building of a quantum computer much more feasible, since it is based on the same manufacturing technology as today's computer industry... what we have is a game changer."
The new kind of chip means all physical building blocks for a silicon-based computer have now been successfully constructed, allowing engineers to finally begin building one in the near future. Dzurak said his team has already patented a design for a full-scale quantum computer chip that houses millions of the qubits they created.
He said the next stage will be to speak with and choose the right industry partners to help them bring a full-scale quantum processor chip to market.