From little things, big things grow

Michelle Simmons’ work building silicon atomic-scale devices is paving the way towards a quantum computer with the capacity to process information exponentially faster than current computers.

She is also Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, acknowledged to be a world-leader in the field of quantum computing—which uses the spin, or magnetic orientation, of individual electrons or atomic nuclei to represent data.

Michelle Simmons is one of only 11 Australians elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Credit: UNSW
Michelle Simmons is one of only 11 Australians elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Credit: UNSW

In the past five years, Michelle’s research group and collaborators have made a number of notable advances. They have fabricated the world’s first single-atom transistor in single-crystal silicon, and the world’s narrowest conducting wires, also in silicon, just four atoms wide and one atom tall with the current-carrying capacity of copper.

These results form the components of the first quantum-integrated circuit and have been produced in silicon, the widespread and inexpensive material that already has a trillion-dollar industry devoted to handling it.

This past year, Michelle and her group have shown they can couple donor atoms and transport spin-encoded information between them. For her efforts, among several other honours and awards, Michelle—who is a laureate fellow and Scientia Professor of Physics at the University of New South Wales— has become one of only 11 Australians to be elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a prestigious body that contains more than 200 Nobel Prize winners in its ranks.

For more information: University of New South Wales, Michelle Simmons, michelle.simmons@unsw.edu.au, www.arc.gov.au

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