Accurate time with light and designing the NBN

A new, cheaper way to deliver accurate time across Australia: instead of using hydrogen maser clocks costing hundreds of thousands of dollars we can bounce signals through the national’s optical fibre network according to physics leaders speaking today and tomorrow.

Also today at the national physics congress in Sydney, meet the man whose job it is to figure out how to build the NBN.

And hear about the magic of thermal plasmas, from safer arc welding to saving the ozone layer.

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Single-atom writer a landmark for quantum computing

Posted on behalf of the University of New South Wales

A research team led by Australian engineers has created the first working quantum bit based on a single atom in silicon, opening the way to ultra-powerful quantum computers of the future.

In a landmark paper published today in the journal Nature, the team describes how it was able to both read and write information using the spin, or magnetic orientation, of an electron bound to a single phosphorus atom embedded in a silicon chip.

“For the first time, we have demonstrated the ability to represent and manipulate data on the spin to form a quantum bit, or ‘qubit’,  the basic unit of data for a quantum computer,” says Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak. “This really is the key advance towards realising a silicon quantum computer based on single atoms.”

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Print your own lasers, lights and TV screens

Imagine printing your own room lighting, lasers, or solar cells from inks you buy at the local newsagent. Jacek Jasieniak and his colleagues at CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Padua in Italy, have moved a step closer to such a future, by developing liquid inks based on quantum dots that can be used to print devices.

These quantum dot inks will transform our use of light in the home and office. In the first demonstration of these inks Jacek and his colleagues have made tiny printable lasers.

Four different colours of quantum dots (photo: Jacek Jasieniak)

The first laser, invented 50 years ago in May 1960, was described as a solution looking for a problem. Today dozens of lasers are built into our computers, cars and homes. Soon, thanks to Jacek’s work, we may have millions of tiny lasers working in our homes lighting our rooms and even acting as pixels in printable TV screens. The lasers could also be used as components in optical computers, electronics, sensors, as cheap laser pointers in a range of colours or even fashion accessories.

Jacek’s work is being presented for the first time in public through Fresh Science, a communication boot camp for early-career scientists held at the Melbourne Museum. Jacek was one of 16 winners from across Australia.

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The Diamond Age

Move aside bronze, iron, silicon

We’re moving into the Diamond Age according to Professor David Awschalom from the University of California.

He and his team have already built experimental diamond chips by punching atom-sized flaws into the diamond’s molecular structure.

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Physics in December 2009 – January 2010: quantum matter, sub-atomic physics and the SKA

Welcome to my monthly email to people around the country with an interest in physics – with news and events for December 2009 and January 2010.

This month we’re exploring quantum matter in Canberra and Melbourne with Austrian Rudolf Grimm, sub-atomic physics in Adelaide; a teachers’ seminar in Tassie, and the director of the SKA project, Richard Schilizzi speaks in Melbourne. [continue reading…]