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Italian researchers use diamonds to build uber computer of the future

(Roger Barker)

TURIN - The most powerful computer ever built by man is already in the works. Its secret? Diamonds.

This is not science fiction, but an experiment currently underway in Italy, which will produce the first quantum computers. Researcher Paolo Olivero, who is working on the experiment, said the machines will be able "to make calculations in a second that a modern computer would take years to make."

How do these futuristic computer work? Information is carried aboard a ray of light along micro channels created by a particle accelerator. It then reaches the diamond's luminescence centers, natural laboratories of information, which the researchers are using as processors for quantum calculations.

The possible applications of such high-performance computers are countless. "Important data traveling on the Internet like credit card numbers, IDs, or access codes to a database, would be saved with a technique impossible to crack in a reasonable time unless you had quantum computer technology," explained Olivero.

Olivero, a researcher at the Department of Experimental Physics at Turin University, is conducting the experiment with other colleagues in Turin and Florence. The group published the study on "Physical Review Letters," a scientific journal published by the American Physical Society.

But how does it work?

"The ray of light is a vehicle for a lot of information," says Stefano Lagomarsino of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Florence. "Even whether light is on or off – that, is whether it's passed through the diamond -- is in itself information. The ‘yes' or ‘no", moreover, is the basis for binary code."

The micro channels, created by Italy's National Research Center, serve as a sort of guide that leads light along an obliged path and toward the luminescence center, said Lagomarsino.

For thousands of years, calculations have been made manually, for hundreds of years mechanically, then electronically, thanks to silicon processors. Now, diamonds are the next step.

For Italians, a point of pride


Italians developed an early computer in the 1950s, the Elea 9003. Created by Adriano Olivetti and a team of researchers led by Mario Tchou, it was the first Transistor Computer ever created, said technology historian Vittorio Marchis of Turin's Politecnico.

But processors are a "sensitive" technology, and with the deaths of both Olivetti and Tchou in the early 1960s, Italy lost its edge, and the United States took the lead in information technology. Italians are hoping the quantum computer can help put them back on the map.

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