The computers of today have just about hit their limits, and scientists around the world are scrambling to build the first viable quantum computer – a machine that could increase processing speeds 100-million-fold.
The biggest challenge in scaling up a quantum computer is figuring out how to entangle enough quantum bits to perform calculations, but a team of engineers in the US say they might finally have a solution.
Quantum computers are set to revolutionise how we process data in the future, because they’re not limited to the 1s and 0s of binary code that today’s computers rely on.
“Quantum computers exploit three very unusual features that operate at the quantum scale – that electrons can be both particles and waves, that objects can be in many places at once, and that they can maintain an instantaneous connection even when separated by vast distances.”
Despite what Google’s been saying about its controversial new D-Wave 2X quantum computing machine, no one’s been able to build a ‘proper’ quantum computer, because of how difficult it is to entangle a large number of qubits on a circuit, and control them in any reliable way.
Once derided by Einstein himself as “Spooky action at a distance”, quantum entanglement is a strange phenomenon where two quantum particles interact in such a way that they become deeply linked, and essentially ‘share’ an existence.
The team, led by physicist David S. Weiss, tested their ability to change the quantum state of these individual atoms by switching the states of selected atoms across three of the stacked planes to spell out the letters P, S, and U. “We changed the quantum superposition of the PSU atoms to be different from the quantum superposition of the other atoms in the array,” Weiss says in a press release.