sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Friday, February 15, 2013

Organic Topological Insulators

Context and Precedence - A brief discussion of Quantum Computing

Quantum computers are different from digital computers based on transistors. Digital computing is fast reaching its practical limitations because of the size and speed of electrons. Digital computers require data to be encoded into binary digits. Quantum computation uses quantum properties to represent data. So in essence, a quantum computer 'thinks' differently than the one you're using to read this. They have the ability to be in more than one state simultaneously - which takes us to Dirac Fermions and one potential future style of quantum computing.

Which Brings us to Dirac Fermions

Dirac Fermions (an electron with interesting properties) have angular momentum around a particle's axis that behaves like a magnetic pole. They allow the user to store information in both the charge and spin of the electrons. 

So you understand why this may matter, the computer that you're using to read this uses electrons that move very quickly to "compute" in much the same (but not the same) way that your brain uses electrochemical means to process information. But your computer is too slow. 

Using Dirac Fermions in computing requires a topological insulator, scientists have to design materials that can transmit fermions. In a topological insulator, fermions behave like a massless or weightless packet of light, conducting electricity as they move very fast along a material's surface or edges. When these fermions venture inside the material, however, this "weightless" conductivity screeches to a halt. (no heat dissipation)

Heat is the enemy of computers. Humans generate a lot of heat (see popular science fiction: The Matrix) energy. It can be argued that the human is nothing but a computer system designed around energy consumption (the pizza you that you had for dinner) in order to make it self-replicating. A higher form of virus, if you will (see the definition of a politician).

Chinese researchers are using organics acting as topologic insulators within bismuth-based (metalic) compounds in an effort to exploit spin and polarity in the creation of a faster generation of quantum computer. in the same way organic materials lowered the cost and eased production of light-emitting diodes and solar cells, this technology is likely to decrease the cost and ease production of a species of quantum computer. The application of organic topological insulators may change the way that you read your e-mail while crunching down a bowl of cornflakes to generate energy in your brain/computer.

There are different visions for the future of quantum computing. Some believed that magnetic resonance computing would hold the answers to the future (IBM) but it didn't work out. There has been interesting work with anyons (two dimensional particles - sort of a fermion), but they only work off the chalkboard at absolute zero (very cold) and provide results that are not reliable enough for use in computing. The breakthrough (above) may hold the elusive answer to the future of computing.


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