Online scientific news source Physics World ranked UCSB physicists’ research in quantum integrated circuits ninth on its top 10 most influential physics breakthroughs of 2011, which were announced last month.

The campus’ award-winning group created the first complete quantum computer based on the Von Neumann architecture that uses superconducting circuits and revolutionary integration of various quantum devices on a single chip. The project was led by Department of Physics postdoctoral fellow Matteo Mariantoni and conducted under the direction of physics professors John M. Martinis and Andrew N. Cleland.

According to Physics World editor Hamish Johnston, the research used previously existing theory to create the groundbreaking integration of a quantum system.

“The idea of building a quantum mechanic computer has been around for quite a while and slowly physicists have been able to work out a theory of how it could be done,” Johnston said. “Some people have actually made very simple devices that are incredibly difficult to operate because any sort of quantum system is very sensitive. What these people have done is they have managed to take all the components required for the most basic sort of computer, like in a desktop or a laptop, and make it quantum devices. [No one] has ever been able to integrate everything onto one chip, so these people are unique.”

Editors reviewed roughly 350 projects to discern the rankings. Johnston said the team’s development demonstrates that quantum computing is potentially viable on a larger scale in the near future.

“At the moment, there are a number of different devices or models that can be used to make a quantum computer, but I think the sort of superconducting device that they worked on is the one that shows a great deal of promise simply because they are able to put them onto chips and connect them up,” Johnston said. “With a lot of hard work, this could be a technology that becomes commercialized.”

Physicists hope this breakthrough will lead to the production of quantum computers at the mass industry level. Mariantoni said the research will serve as the backbone for further developed quantum computer technology.

“Working on the quantum Von Neumann machine has been one of the most challenging and fascinating experiences in my professional life,” Mariantoni said. “I am convinced that our quantum machine will very soon serve as the unit cell of more complex quantum computing architectures that might outperform classical supercomputers in the future.”

Mariantoni’s research assistant Matthew Neeley, a UCSB physics department alumnus, said the findings will make way for more developments in quantum technology.

“It is always nice to see one’s work recognized as being interesting and important, and certainly being included in this list of achievements in physics for 2011 is gratifying,” Neeley said. “These are exciting days for quantum technology — in particular superconducting quantum technology — and UCSB is a leader in the field, so I anticipate many more important breakthroughs in the coming years.”

Mariantoni’s team is the second group mentored by Martinis and Cleland to receive recognition in the Physics World annual top 10 breakthrough list.

First-year physics major Taylor Van Laar said the achievement will help lead to further research opportunities.

“It’s such an honor to be able to learn from all of the physics professors and faculty,” Van Laar said. “The fact that the work of others in the UCSB physics community is considered one of the top breakthroughs of the year makes me feel really comfortable that the professors are definitely helping to lead us in the right direction for the future.”