Michelle Simmons: Atomic Transistors and Quantum Computers


Image  By Duncan.Hull – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76434457

Nick-named the Quantum Queen, Michelle Simmons’ team in Australia are racing to build the fastest computer ever –  a quantum computer.

Over the last 40 years, computers have, year on year, got faster. This increase in speed has been in line with a decrease in the size of the electronic components that computers are built from. These tiny building blocks,  transistors, have become so small that the next step is for them to be as small as an atom.

Michelle’s New South Wales University group have overcome many problems, which some said were impossible, and are now manufacturing these atomic components.

As well as atomic components being smaller than conventional transistors they are also very different in terms of how they work, they are far more powerful. Rather than being binary, representing either a 1 or 0, atomic components can represent a whole range of values and can be used to process not just one thing at a time but many many things at a time. Michelle’s team have used their atomic component know-how to build atomic qubits (quantum bits) and to build these into 3D quantum chips which are the next step in the development of large scale quantum computing.

Find out more



History and Computing: Find out about the history of computing and how we have moved from mechanical devices to digital devices. Watch Michelle’s TED talk to find out about Moore’s Law and where atomic transistors fit into this law. Create a presentation, quiz, game, piece of art or music to share what you have found out about quantum computing and what that might mean for our future.

This work was supported by the Institute of Coding, which is supported by the Office for Students (OfS).