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In the 1990s, says Professor Sayantani "Sai" Ghosh, computer industry leaders realized that even if they could manipulate matter on the atomic level, they would reach the limits of magnetically designed computer drives within 20 to 50 years. Researchers began a mad scramble to find avenues where the field could continue to innovate.
Ghosh and others in her field think the next wave may be quantum computing – applying the scientific principles that won Albert Einstein his first Nobel Prize to information storage and processing. Computers that use extremely small particles would not only eliminate size and density limits, they would function much faster.
Quantum computing could allow processing of multiple pieces of information at the same time – instead of in series, the way today's computers function. While today’s bit must be either a 0 or a 1, a quantum bit or "qubit"; could be both at once.
Ghosh has two approaches to quantum computing. The first involves chemically synthesized quantum dots. The other approach uses natural crystals, where particles that could function as qubits already exist in structured systems.
She says quantum computing is an inevitable step that will revolutionize the entire computer industry.