The Italian Almanac

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laser chip

Quantum Leap

A new Italian computer chip is pointing the way towards the smaller and more powerful 'quantum' computers of the future, a team from Rome and Milan says. The optical chip, whose circuit was inserted by a computer-guided laser into a one-millimetre-thin sliver of glass, has proven one of the key ideas behind developing miniature devices that use the power of atoms rather than transistors, team leader Paolo Mataloni said: "It's a demonstration of a principle that would enable us to eliminate cumbersome devices," the sculpting laser "modified the structural properties of the glass, constructing a sort of circuit inside which the particles of light flow".

According to Mataloni, the leap made theoretically possible by the chip is comparable to that which took place in the 1960s when table-top computers began replacing huge mainframes that filled up whole rooms. The chip was made at Rome's La Sapienza university with the collaboration of Milan's Politecnico university and the Photonics and Nanotechnology Institute of the National Research Council in Milan.

The study earned a spot on the front page of Physical Review Letters.