International Business Machines is close to building a practical quantum computer after its team of researchers achieved two important advances in their work.
Computer scientists had been working on developing a quantum computer since 1981 when Nobel Prize winner, Richard Feynman challenged them to create new computers based on quantum physics.
Mark Ritter, a senior manager at IBM T.J. Watson Research Laboratory said, Employing quantum physics for computation is difficult in part because quantum information is very fragile, requiring the quantum elements to be cooled to near absolute zero temperature and shielded from electromagnetic radiation to minimize errors.”
IBM: Two critical milestones in developing a quantum computer
The team of engineers and scientist at IBM T.J. Watson Research Laboratory succeeded in detecting and measuring two types of quantum errors simultaneously.
In addition, the IBM researchers also demonstrated a new quantum bit (qubit) circuit design to create large chips capable of powering computers.
Ritter said, “These two milestones are very exciting development—building on IBM’s 30-year history of advancing quantum computing research.
According to Ritter, the current approach to computation is “immensely different” and they need to re-imagine and re-engineer that entire infrastructure of computing to develop quantum computers.
Ritter explained that a traditional computer used bits. Each bit represents either a one or a zero. On the other hand, a qubit can represent a one, a zero, and both at once. Therefore, two qubits can be in the states of 00,10 and 11 at the same time, a phenomenon known as superposition.
“For each added qubit, the total number of potential states doubles. Hence, the use of qubits in certain types of computation could enable us to perform calculations exponentially faster than is possible with traditional computers,” said Ritter.
He emphasized that qubits must retain their quantum mechanical state long enough to perform accurate calculations and to suppress errors. Ritter said,”one of the great challenges in controlling or removing quantum decoherence or errors in calculations caused by interferences such as heat and electromagnetic radiation.
“The IBM Research team addressed one aspect of this problem in their experiments. They demonstrated error detection operations using a four-qubit square lattice of superconducting qubits, which is roughly one-quarter-inch square. They were the first to detect and measure the two types of quantum computing errors (bit-flip and phase-flip),” said Riter.”
A quantum computer can be more powerful than the fastest supercomputer today
According to him, the next step toward building a large quantum computer is for them to correct quantum errors.
Ritter said the IBM research team has a lattice design for their circuit, which important for scaling larger systems of qubits. He added, “By being the first to use this configuration, which I believe the rest of the research community will need to adopt, the IBM team will be able to add more qubits to get to a working system. We are already conducting tests of eight qubits in a square lattice in our lab.”
Ritter believed that we are entering the golden age of quantum computing research based on the enormous amount of progress made in the field. He pointed out that quantum computers have the potential to become more powerful than the fastest supercomputers today.