Mono-molecular optical transistor brings quantum computing closer

Paul Raven @ 08-07-2009

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have managed to make an optical transistor from a single molecule, offering another potential stay of execution for Moore’s Law.

ETH’s Martin Pototschnig told us more about the molecule used for the experiments. “It is a small hydrocarbon molecule called dibenzanthanthrene (DBATT). The molecules are doped in n-tetradecane, an organic solvent. So the sample is a pink liquid at room temperature. Then we cryogenically cool the small portion of the sample then the n-tetradecane freezes and forms a molecular crystal.”

The molecule itself is about 2 nanometers in size, over ten times smaller than standard transistors, which means that a lot more could be integrated in a single chip.

Great, you may be thinking, but what is it good for? Well, not much. Yet.

By using a laser beam to impose the quantum state of a molecular transistor, the research team demonstrated control of a second laser beam, which reflects the way in which a conventional transistor works.

“The next step is to ‘connect’ two or more [single-molecule optical transistors],” Pototschnig told us with regard to future areas the team will be focusing on. “In other words, we have to connect two molecules in a way that the quantum mechanical superposition state of each molecule is exchanged in a coherent manner. Only that way the strength of the quantum computing principles can be fully taken advantage of. We are in the middle of coming up with actual ways to implement the connection idea.”

Doesn’t really explain much, but then I don’t really fully understand how quantum computing is meant to work, despite numerous attempts to research it a bit further… if anyone can point me towards a good simplified explanation, please pipe up in the comments.

One thing I do know is that a lot of people are skeptical of quantum computing having any practical real-world applications, assuming it ever makes it out of the developmental stages. But then IBM’s chairman of 1943 never imagined the world would need more than five regular computers, and he’s been proved very wrong since then. Human ingenuity being what it is, we’ll find something to do with it once it’s here.

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3 Responses to “Mono-molecular optical transistor brings quantum computing closer”

  1. Evil Rocks says:

    I stood in front of a urinal the other day, junk in hand, and realized that there was a computer running the toilet.

  2. Rick York says:

    Paul,

    I notice that you used a word construction that has become depressingly familiar. You wrote “over ten times smaller than standard transistors,”.

    Several folks over at Slashdot have picked up the same problem. Why don’t we write one-tenth or 1/10 rather than “ten times smaller”.

    I realize I’m nit-picking, but we are seeing a lot of grammatical errors and misconstructions which confuse and mislead. Yours is the least harmful, but, to a nitpicker, it’s annoying.

    Rick

  3. Paul Raven says:

    Point taken, Rick – though in my defence that’s a quote from the original article rather than my choice of words! I’ll keep an eye out for that sort of thing moving forwards, but feel free to call out further errors – that’s the best way to learn!