Scientist have hit on a breakthrough in quantum technology that could eventually lead to development of a replacement for the silicon chip.
Physicists at McGill University in the US now have a system where they can measure the energy involved in adding electrons to semiconductor nanocrystals, which are known as quantum dots.
The research team has built a 'cantilever force sensor' that can remove individual electrons that have been added to a quantum dot. The energy of this interaction can be measured.
This is anticipated to be important in replacing the silicon chip. Currently computers work using processors containing transistors that are in either an on or off position - conducting versus nonconducting. With quantum computing, processors can work with many different states, which can both increase their speed and reduce their size.
As scientists begin to understand these nanoscale systems, they can better predict and understand their electronic properties.
"We are determining optical and electronic transport properties," said Dr. Peter Grütter, McGill's associate dean of research. This is essential for the development of components that might replace silicon chips in current computers," he added.
This research can also determine the chemical properties of nanosystems, which could lead to 'greener' technology. McGill University cited as an example using nanoparticles to improve the energy efficiency of lighting systems.