Towards the Quantum Computer: Information Processing with Single Electrons
Computational systems can be defined by the task they are expected to perform. At the same time they are physical systems. During the last 50 years, the technology and the architecture of information processing machines led to a drastic miniaturization of the hardware elements by several orders of magnitude. While the length of a vacuum tube in 1940 was about 10cm, the typical length of a transistor on a silicon chip has been reduced to 10μm in the year 1980 and to 1μm in the VLSI-circuits of today. By obvious extrapolation one concludes, that the “nm-chip” containing computing elements of the size of individual molecules will be developed at the beginning of the next century. Does this kind of extrapolation make sense in useful technological terms? Or does there exist an inherent length scale, below which the constraints imposed on systems capable of information processing must violate the physical laws?
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