Californian Scientists have created diamonds with microscopic holes in them filled with nitrogen and say these could be the answer to the next generation of supercomputers.
Called nitrogen-vacancy diamonds, these could potentially store millions more data than the existing silicon based systems of today and process the information millions of times faster.
It has not been determined exactly how nitrogen-vacancy diamonds would be used yet but some possibilities include designing more efficient computers and in advanced cryptography and security systems.
Many diamonds already have nitrogen in them naturally in random microscopic holes, and is what gives certain diamonds their yellow hue and scientists have already been using such diamonds in order to study quantum mechanics.
“We’ve used well-known techniques to create atomic-size defects in otherwise perfect diamonds,” says David Awschalom, a scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-author of a new article in the journal ACS Nano Letters.
Scientists have been searching for more ways to artificially implant arrays of patterned nitrogen holes in diamonds in order to improve upon nature the precision required to study quantum mechanics.
This is done by using an ion beam to firstly knock out two carbon atoms and then replace them with a nitrogen atom. This effectively create a ‘hole’ filled with nitrogen. It takes about one second to inject 4000 nitrogen atoms this way and one minute to pattern several centimetres of flat diamond.
There is no complicated techniques to accomplish this scientists say. “You can buy it online, send it to another company for the patterning, and then explore it yourself,” says Awschalom, The key to a diamond-based quantum mechanical computer is an extra electron in the hole. In the computers we know and use, information is encoded as either a ‘0′ or a ‘1′.
But in a diamond-based quantum computer, information could also be stored in the spin of that electron. This means information could be stored as not only a 0 or 1, but also the direction the electron is spinning. This would markedly increase the computing power of a diamond based quantum mechanical computer over the standard one.
“Diamonds wouldn’t replace the silicon used in today’s consumer computers”, says Dr Ray Beausoleil, a fellow in Information and Quantum Systems at HP. “A quantum computer won’t help you add two numbers faster”. Beausoleil further explained that that doesn’t mean consumers won’t benefit from a diamond-based quantum computer. But what it will do is help model certain extremely complex problems.
David DiVincenzo, a scientist at IBM who is also familiar with the Nano Letters article stated, “This points to the fruitful end of a very long search of all the things that you could put in diamond to make it electronically active,” Diamonds aren’t a sure bet for a quantum computer, he commented, but they’re certainly in the running because of this research.
Nitrogen vacancy diamonds could soon be making their mark in the computer industry.