Silicon photonics processors have been developed by a research team at Bristol University and are currently being commercialised by Nokia and Toshiba.
“In the next three years we will demonstrate devices that will outperform computers for specialised tasks,” says Prof Jeremy O’Brien, Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering at Bristol University.
The silicon photonics processors are seen as the building blocks of quantum computers.
“These circuits exploit strange quantum mechanical effects such as super-position (the ability of a photon to be in two places at once) and entanglement (correlations between particles that would seem impossible),” says O’Brien.
The Bristol team have exploited these phenomena to develop a device to power quantum systems.
“In eight to ten years we’ll have quantum computers outperforming current computers for useful tasks,” said O’Brien.
“We have a patented prototype with Nokia and are working together with them on a communication system,” says O’Brien, “and we’ve been working for one and a half years with Toshiba in Japan on photonic interconect.”
Bristol’s current devices were fabricated by Toshiba.
The university is also talking to STMicroelectronics, NKK in Japan, and IBM.
One of the big benefits the quantum photonics processor brings is the unhackable computer or cellphone.
“Quantum computers pose a threat to secure systems as they could crack all existing secure systems,” says O’Brien, adding “but they would also provide the solution.”