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Quantum computer chips now 1 step closer to reality

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the quest for smaller, faster computer chips, researchers are increasingly turning to quantum mechanics -- the exotic physics of the small.

The problem: the manufacturing techniques required to make quantum devices have been equally exotic.

That is, until now.

Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered a way to make quantum devices using technology common to the chip-making industry today.

This work might one day enable faster, low-power computer chips. It could also lead to high-resolution cameras for security and public safety, and cameras that provide clear vision through bad weather.

Paul Berger, professor of electrical and computer engineering and professor of physics at Ohio State University, and his colleagues report their findings in an upcoming issue of IEEE Electron Device Letters.

The team fabricated a device called a tunneling diode using the most common chip-making technique, called chemical vapor deposition.

"We wanted to do this using only the tools found in the typical chip-makers toolbox," Berger said. "Here we have a technique that manufacturers could potentially use to fabricate quantum devices directly on a silicon chip, side-by-side with their regular circuits and switches."

The quantum device in question is a resonant interband tunneling diode (RITD) -- a device that enables large amounts of current to be regulated through a circuit, but at very low voltages. That means that such devices run on very little power.

RITDs have been difficult to manufacture because they contain dopants -- chemical elements -- that don't easily fit within a silicon crystal.

Atoms of the RITD dopants antimony or phosphorus, for example, are large compared to atoms of silicon. Because they don't fit into the natural openings inside a silicon crystal, the dopants tend to collect on the surface of a chip.

"It's like when you're

Contact: Paul R. Berger
Ohio State University

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