Work undertaken at the University of Michigan has resulted in the creation of a quantum processor that contains one cadmium ion. This ion can exist in many possible states which collapse into a single one when observed by an outsider, and is suspended in electrical fields. The chip itself is composed of gallium arsenide, and was made using the same microlithography process that many modern processors are made of.
"We levitate the atom in the chip by applying certain electrical signals to the tiny nearby electrodes," explained Professor Christopher Monroe, University of Michigan Physics professor and co-inventor of the chip. While other researchers use neutral atoms, Monroe's chip traps ions - atoms with missing or extra electrons - on his chip.
Quantum computing is seen as a great leap forward in computing – a kind of Holy Grail of sorts. However, Quantum processors will probably not find their way into a computer near you any time soon – apart from being highly experimental (not to mention hideously expensive), they can excel in computations involving waveform analysis or cryptography, but perform poorly when tasked with such applications as Microsoft Word or checking email.