The Inquirer-Home

Quantum computing gets closer

Qubits simulated
Mon Jun 29 2009, 11:25

PHYSICS BOFFINS at Yale University have made a quantum leap into the world of quantum computing, having managed to perform a couple of basic tasks on a solid-state chip that is essentially a two-qubit quantum processor.

Performing a search query may not seem like much, but to the team of physicists from Yale, the achievement is being celebrated as a major breakthrough on the road to quantum computing.

"Our processor can perform only a few very simple quantum tasks, which have been demonstrated before with single nuclei, atoms and photons. But this is the first time they've been possible in an all-electronic device that looks and feels much more like a regular microprocessor," said the team's leader, Robert Schoelkopf.

In an ordinary digital computer, a bit can either exist in the "1" or "0" position, corresponding to "on" or "off", respectively, whereas a qubit - subject to the laws of quantum mechanics - can exist as the superposition of both states simultaneously.

In the device, two simulated qubits, each made up of a billion aluminum atoms, are the building blocks of quantum computations. Basically, the billion aluminum atoms that make up each simulated qubit behave like a single particle that can occupy two different energy states at the same time. This opens up a whole range of possibilities for future computational performance.

Still, before you get too excited, the qubits generated so far have been extremely short lived. A decade ago, the first qubits that were created lasted only a nanosecond before they decayed, but the ones simulated in this chip last for an entire microsecond, a thousand times improvement.

"We're still far away from building a practical quantum computer, but this is a major step forward," said Schoelkopf.

More details about the solid-state quantum processor appear in the June 28th advanced online issue of the journal Nature. µ



Share this:

blog comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to INQ newsletters

Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ

INQ Poll

Masque malware is putting iPad and iPhone user data at risk

Has news of iOS malware made you reconsider getting an iPhone?