Twenty years ago, other scientists told Winfried Hensinger that developing a powerful quantum computer was impossible. He has now fabricated the system that he believes will prove them wrong.
Scientists have taken another step toward making multitasking “quantum” computers, more powerful than today’s most advanced supercomputers.
Quantum computers take advantage of the strange qualities of subatomic particles. The so-called quantum particles can be in two places at the same time and also strangely connected, even if they are separated by millions of kilometers.
A team at the University of Sussex transferred quantum information between computer chips at record speed and precision.
Computer scientists have been trying to build an efficient quantum computer for more than 20 years. Companies like Google, IBM, and Microsoft have developed simple machines.
But, according to Professor Winfried Hensinger, who led the research at the University of Sussex, the new breakthrough opens the way to systems capable of solving complex real-world problems that the best computers we have today are incapable of.
“Right now we have quantum computers with very simple microchips,” he explains.
“What we have achieved here is the ability to make powerful quantum computers capable of solving some of the most important problems for industries and society.”
in two places at once
Computers today solve problems linearly, one calculation at a time. In the quantum realm, particles can be in two places at the same time, and researchers want to take advantage of this property to develop computers capable of performing multiple calculations simultaneously.
Quantum particles can also be millions of kilometers away and be strangely connected, mirroring each other’s actions instantly. Again, this could be used to develop more powerful computers.
One problem has been the need to transfer quantum information between chips quickly and reliably: the information is degraded and errors are introduced.
But Professor Hensinger’s team has made a breakthrough, published in the journal Nature Communications, that may have cleared that hurdle.
The team has developed a system capable of transporting information from one chip to another with a reliability of 99.999993% at record speeds.
According to the researchers, this shows that, in principle, the chips could be put together to create a more powerful quantum computer.
Professor Michael Cuthbert, director of the newly created National Center for Quantum Computing in Didcot, Oxfordshire, and independent of the Sussex research group, called the breakthrough “a really important step.”
However, he specified that it is necessary to continue working to develop practical systems.
“To build the kind of quantum computer that will be needed in the future, you start by connecting chips the size of your thumbnail to something the size of a dinner plate.
The Sussex group has shown that you can get the stability and speed you need to take that step.”
PhD student Sahra Kulmiya, who conducted the Sussex experiment, said the team is up for the challenge of taking the technology to the next level.