Error reduction means huge leap for quantum computing

Scientists have made a huge leap towards quantum computing with a record low error rate in qubit processing.

While quantum computing may still be a good distance from providing the processing power for on the shelf PCs, a team at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has made the possibility all the more real.

It is generally agreed that one error in 10,000 logic operations in quantum processing is a low enough error rate for a functioning system.  Error rates above this mean that there will be more mistakes than can be eradicated from results.

The team has now been able to show enough control over single beryllium ion qubit operations that the probability of error is limited to one per 50,000 logic operations.

While a functioning quantum computing system would in fact involve two qubit operations with comparably low error rates, this is a big step in the right direction.

THe experiment was performed using a thousand unique sequences of logic operations which had been selected by a computer at random.  The sequences were split into 10 lengths – from one to 987 operations, and were repeated 100 times.

The team were then able to compare the results with correct outcome, passing with flying colours.

This was made possible by two changes to the team’s normal set up. One being the manipulation of the ion using a amicrowave rather than the usual laser beam.  This reduced the instability which is caused by a laser beam power alongside spontaneous ion emissions.

The team also reduced errors caused by magnetic field movements by dipping the ion in a very cold copper vacuum chamber.