An international team, including members from the University of Sydney, has announced research that promises to reinvent modern computing through the development of ion-crystal technology.


The ion-crystal ‘quantum simulator’ technology has been used to develop a new breed of computer only 300 atoms in size, but with power that would require a contemporary computer the size of the known universe to match.


“The system we have developed has the potential to perform calculations that would require a supercomputer larger than the size of the known universe - and it does it all in a diameter of less than a millimetre," Dr Michael Biercuk of the University of Sydney said.


"The projected performance of this new experimental quantum simulator eclipses the current maximum capacity of any known computer by an astonishing 10 to the power of 80. That is 1 followed by 80 zeros, in other words 80 orders of magnitude, a truly mind-boggling scale."


The research far outstrips previous records in terms of the number of elements used together in a quantum simulator, meaning the machine can perform infinitely more complex tasks.


The team is made of leading scientists from the US National Institute of standards and Technology, Georgetown University, North Carolina State University and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa.


"Many properties of natural materials governed by the laws of quantum mechanics are very difficult to model using conventional computers. The key concept in quantum simulation is building a quantum system to provide insights into the behaviour of other naturally occurring physical systems,” Dr Biercuk said.


"By engineering precisely controlled interactions and then studying the output of the system, we are effectively running a 'program' for the simulation.


"In our case, we are studying the interactions of spins in the field of quantum magnetism - a key problem that underlies new discoveries in materials science for energy, biology, and medicine.”


"For instance, we hope to study the spin interactions predicted by models for high-temperature superconductivity - a physical phenomenon that has yet to be explained, but has the potential to revolutionise power distribution and high-speed transport."