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Today’s universal computing devices are built of silicon, which is a semiconductor material. According to Interesting Engineering, silicon behaves like a conducting material under certain conditions but has limitations that impact its ability to compute larger numbers.

Today’s fastest supercomputers are still slower than quantum computers, which are not limited by silicon-based components and can compute in seconds what supercomputers would take years to complete, opening up a whole new level of computing prowess.

Researchers at UCI have been trying to determine how to obtain high-quality quantum materials but found a simpler way to make them from everyday materials.

Luis A. Jauregui, a professor of physics and astronomy at UCI, explained in a press release: “Imagine if we could transform glass, typically considered an insulating material, and convert it into efficient conductors akin to copper. The materials we made are substances that exhibit unique electrical or quantum properties because of their specific atomic shapes or structures.”

Jauregui and his team developed what they call a “bending station” at the UCI School of Physical Sciences, where they can apply strain to materials at atomic levels and make them change their behavior. There, the researchers applied a large strain to a trivial material called hafnium pentatelluride, thus turning it into something that could be used to make a quantum computer.

The research team has gone one step further and managed to turn this atomic change on and off by controlling the applied strain, which is useful when trying to create an on-off switch for the material in a quantum computer in the future.

Nowadays, the only people able to access quantum computers are research institutions or industrial giants like Google or IBM, and they are looking for ways to make quantum computing more mainstream. Innovations like this are crucial in making this a reality.