Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, June 29, 2009

The first ever solid-state quantum processor created

Editor's note: Quantum mechanics involves the way matter and energy behave at minuscule sizes and distances. Counter-intuitive doesn't begin to describe the weirdness of this field of physics. And yet, we are able to make darned good use of it. A dream of computer scientists has been to build quantum computers that can perform far faster than conventional ones, and store far far more information. This article describes the creation of the world's first quantum processor. It's a really big deal. - June 28, 2009

The two-qubit processor is the first solid-state quantum processor that resembles a conventional computer chip and is able to run simple algorithms. Credit: Blake Johnson/Yale University

A team led by Yale University researchers has created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor, taking another step toward the ultimate dream of building a quantum computer.

They also used the two-qubit superconducting chip to successfully run elementary algorithms, such as a simple search, demonstrating quantum information processing with a solid-state device for the first time. Their findings will appear in Nature's advanced online publication June 28.

For example, imagine having four phone numbers, including one for a friend, but not knowing which number belonged to that friend. You would typically have to try two to three numbers before you dialed the right one. A quantum processor, on the other hand, can find the right number in only one try.

"Instead of having to place a phone call to one number, then another number, you use quantum mechanics to speed up the process," Schoelkopf said. "It's like being able to place one phone call that simultaneously tests all four numbers, but only goes through to the right one."

"Our processor can perform only a few very simple quantum tasks, which have been demonstrated before with single nuclei, atoms and photons," said Robert Schoelkopf, the William A. Norton Professor of Applied Physics & Physics at Yale. "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."

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