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Physicists at the University of Sussex have invented a powerful new microchip capable of holding the voltage equivalent to a micronscale bolt of lightning that could be the key for developing next-generation, super-fast quantum computers.

Quantum technology may well revolutionise the way we use technology in a way similar to the emergence of what are now referred to as "classical" computers. Through having immense processing power, super-fast computers could solve, in a matter of minutes, certain mathematical problems that would take the world's current fastest computer 10,000 years to achieve.

But the challenge for researchers has been in how to harness the ions (charged atoms) that can store the immense amount of memory required to build quantum technology devices. And creating microchips powerful enough to provide a backbone for such technologies has been a field of intense research.

Now, in a study published online (04 April 2014) in Nature Communications, Sussex physicist Dr Winfried Hensinger, together with PhD students Robin Sterling, Seb Weidt, Kim Lake and postdoctoral fellow Simon Webster, who form part of Dr Hensinger's Sussex Ion Quantum Technology Group, have been able to create a new microchip design that is capable of hosting a lattice of individually charged atoms that are held by electric fields emitted from the surface of the microchip. This is the first time that a two-dimensional chessboard lattice of individual ions has been trapped on a microchip.

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