Tag: quantum computing

Google gets into quantum computing

GoogleSearch giant Google has entered into an agreement with quantum computing company D-Wave in a move that will give it access to processors based on the technology as soon as they come into being.

Quantum computing is, so far, only in its early stages, and is based on the potential power of sub atomic particles to deliver super fast computing speeds.

According to Bloomberg, Google will have access to quantum processors. It already has its own division concentrating on hardware research using the technology.

Universities in the USA are also working on the technology and apparently IBM and Microsoft have their own divisons working on research.

Last month, D-Wave systems announced general availability of the 2X computing system and claims a 15 times advantage over other computing systems.

D-Waves system operates at temperatures near to absolute zero and has 128,000 tunnel junctions.

Intel puts $50 million quantum computing’s way

IntelChip giant Intel is investing $50 million in Delft University and a Dutch applied research institute in a bid to create quantum computers.

Quantum computers are being investigated by many universities worldwide and offer vastly improved processing over today’s systems using conventional microprocessors.

Quantum computers use “qubits” to do the serious heavy lifting and these can exist in multiple states at once. That potential development means computing can be done in parallel.

Intel will also provide the Dutch bodies with technical support and the aid of its own engineers.

Mike Mayberry, managing director of Intel Labs, said a working quantum computer is “at least a dozen years away” and no one company or organisation is likely to crack the problems they pose.

He said that low temperature electronics will be needed to create quantum computers and that’s an area that Intel’s experienced in.


IBM claims quantum computing breakthroughs

IBM logoBig Blue – first to develop the hard drive – said today its researchers have made two breakthroughs towards creating a practical quantum computer.

IBM said it had created the ability to detect and measure both kinds of quantum errors simultaneously and has also shown off a square quantum bit circuit design that it believes is the only physical design capable of scaling.

IBM said that Moore’s Law will run out of steam and quantum computing will be one of the inventions that could free computing from a standstill. The company said that if a computer could be built using 50 quantum bits (qubits), it would outperform any combination of today’s Top 500 supercomputers.

The quantum bit circuit is based on a square lattice of four superconducting qubits on a a chip that’s a quater inch spare – that allows both types of quantum errors to be detected simultaneously.

Arvind Krishna, who runs IBM Research, said practical quantum systems could solve problems in physics and quantum chemistry that are currently out of reach, allowing scientists to design new materials and drum compounds without costly trial and error experiments.

Quantum computers would also cope with big data.

IBM did not say when we’d see our first quantum computer using its techniques.

Bristol University makes quantum computing public

The University of Bristol has launched a project called Qcloud – which promises to make quantum computing resources available for all.

There are not many quantum computers in existence – and if there are, they are confined to research in academia. But Bristol university, from 20 September, will open up its quantum processor, housed at the Centre for Quantum Photonics, to the public – giving researchers access to the system remotely using the internet.

Users pointing their browser to bristol.ac.uk/quantum-computing will open up a quantum simulator to academic research as well as members of the public – plus user guides and manuals to help users get their heads around the mind-boggling technology. Once the simulator has been run, it will be possible to submit experiment proposals to be run on an actual quantum photonic processor.

The idea is to open up the possibilities of quantum computing to engineers, mathematicians and scientists around the world, both in the classroom and the lab, according to the university.

The premise of quantum computing depends on the qubit – an information unit which is able to exist in multiple states at a single time. Calculations are then made by altering the state of the qubit, and Bristol points out that the nature of qubits means they could potentially calculate all answers to a math problem simultaneously, using algorithms to understand which answer the qubit displays is correct. By utilising this technique, there is the potential to run extremely complex computations a lot faster than with classical computing.

“This technology has helped accelerate our research and is allowing us to do things we never thought possible,” said project leader, Professor Jeremy O’Brien. “It’s incredibly exciting to think what might be achieved by making this more widely accessible, not only to the brightest minds already working in research, but to the next generation”.

Quantum computing could power Google search

As the internet continues to expand with almost unimaginable amounts of data, a Google backed study has shown how search algorithms can keep up in the future – with the use of quantum computers.

With the switch to IPv6 this week the number of IP addresses which can be assigned now reaches into the trillions, highlighting the huge amount of information which is coming online at a rapid rate.

This means that search engines such as Google will increasingly have mind-bogglingly large amounts of information to process when serving up search results, a mammoth computational task.    

We have all come to expect this to happen instantly, with relevant search results ranked in order of importance.  As the search gets more complicated it also threatens to slow this down.

A team at the University of South Carolina says that to meet such high demands using Google’s famous PageRank system, it may be necessary to use quantum computing to give the algorithm a boost.

Quantum computing, using quantum bits of information which unlike traditional computing bits can exist in states of ‘one’, ‘zero’ or ‘both’, offers access to exponentially faster processing.  

One of the commonly discussed potential applications could be unhackable encryption coding, and plenty of labs and tech firms around the world are developing quantum computing.

According to the researchers, such lightning fast computational speeds could also benefit search algorithms like PageRank, and the team has developed a simulation to discover whether this would work.

The researchers, funded in part by a Google faculty research award, created a simulation of a few thousand web pages that find out if, in principle, the PageRank algorithm would return the most important web pages even quicker.

According to the results of the simulation, which looked at the way quantum computing would deal with a web of thousands of pages, the results showed that PageRank would be vastly improved. The rate at which this would improve would speed up as more pages were ranked. 

Quantum memory beats one second record

Scientists have taken a big step towards usable quantum memory, managing to hold a qubit of information for over a second.

Researchers at Harvard University managed to break the record for the length of time quantum information was held at room temperature, using a highly purified synthetic diamond material.  

Others, such as IBM, have also been attempting to keep qubits to retain their quantum states, but have struggled to stretch past hundreds of milliseconds.

Quantum information processing uses quantum bits, or qubits, and differs from the conventional digital states of 1 and 0 in that it can be in both states at the same time.  This offers up possibilities of mind bogglingly fast processing as researchers try to harness the power of quantum computing.

In the new study Harvard researchers showed the ability of the diamond material to provide the read-out of a quantum bit which had preserved its electron ‘spin’ for several minutes, as well as its memory coherence for over a second.

The synthesised diamond meets the  requirements of initialisation, memory, control and measurement that are necessary to build computational devices.

Crucially, the team managed to ensure that the information lasted long enough to make it usable for computational purposes without the need to cryogenically cool the material first.  

This makes real world applications more practical, and the team reckon that the purified synthetic diamond production method is scalable.

While real quantum computing applications are still a way off, the scientists reckon that applications in the shorter term are possible with quantum based sensors.

IBM creates the world's smallest storage device

IBM scientists have worked out a way to store a single bit of data on a 12-atom surface in what they are calling the world’s smallest magnetic storage device.

It will take decades before the breakthrough can be used on a memory stick but it does show the way the world will be going when it comes to storage.

So far, physicists have had a problem with quantum mechanics which made it impossible to reliably store data. If you link eight atoms, you can’t get a stable magnetic state, probably because some potentially dead or alive cat tends to chase the atoms into a corner.

Andreas Heinrich, an IBM researcher, said that the system will just spontaneously hop from one of those states to another state in a timescale that is too fast for data storage.

Apparently it is difficult to store pornography when the data is switching at thousands of times per second. It is also difficult to keep neighbouring bits of data from interfering with each other.

IBM’s 12-atom bit-keeper uses an antiferromagnetic structure, which makes the atoms point in opposite directions and stops them from getting in the way of each other.

Heinrich said that in an antiferromagnet there is no big spin, and so you can put the atoms very close together.

The downside of it all is that everything operates at a degree kelvin and no one has a clue how to build something this small outside of the lab. You can read more about IBM’s work here.

Quantum breakthrough leads to atomic scale computing

Computing on an atomic scale has been brought closer with the development of atom-thin silicon nanowires, opening up the door for quantum computing in the next decade.

The silicon wire, developed at the University of New South Wales, Melbourne University and Purdue University, is the smallest ever at just one atom tall and four atoms wide.

Crucially, the silicon wire is able to maintain its resistivity even at this atomic level, giving hope for a roadmap to devices at the end of Moore’s Law.

Despite being 20 times thinner than conventional copper wires in contemporary circuitry, a computer model has allowed the development of a silicon wire pieced together atom-by-atom. Usually smaller wire sizes are achieved by being stripped away.

The discovery has numerous implications.  As well as showing a path to extending Moore’s Law it shows that Ohm’s law of the relationship between electric current , resistance and voltage holds true even at the atomic level.

Most intriguingly it opens up a path to quantum computing production.  Speaking on Australian ABC Radio, Michelle Simmons from the University of New South Wales outlined how useful the silicon nanowires could be for the future of computing.

“They still conduct with the same resistivity as if they were really thick wires,” Simmons said.

“This is something that is unexpected as normally when you make wires very thin, the thinner you make them the more resistive they get.”

Simmons told ABC Radio that it will be useful for the semiconductor industry because components need to get smaller. The research, Simmons said, proved that devices can be pushed to the atomic scale, while still maintaining low resistivity.

According to Simmons, resistivity can usually increase “exponentially” when the 10 nanometre mark is reached.

With developments such as this though, she hopes that atomic level computing can be reached “in the next decade or so”.

With quantum computing it will be possible to make calculations that would take “longer than the lifetime of the universe” on a classical computer, in just “seconds or minutes”.

Simmons has stated that while scientists are on the verge of making transistors out of single atoms, the full set of building block components for a working quantum computer also need to be constructed.

This latest effort should help make a complete working quantum computer even more viable.

Scientists conjure up tiny, reconfigurable quantum chip

Researchers at the University of Bristol think they’ve cracked a way to get one step closer to quantum computing, figuring out a method to run photon entanglement onto a single, small silica chip. 

Entanglement is a key process in quantum computing. It’s the connection between two distant particles, which the researchers claim they have managed to tame – learning how to generate, manipulate and measure the process on the chip.

Along with that, the researchers have used the chip to measure mixture, which is an unwanted environmental effect that they say can now be controlled and used to characterise quantum circuits.

Researchers have, until now, been scratching their heads about controlling entanglement and mixture, puzzles in building quantum computers.

Entanglement and mixture needs to be controlled on a chip if anyone’s going to scalably duplicate miniature circuits. The team says its new device makes that a reality, and in turn is a major step on the road towards optical quantum computing.

The team’s chip is able to perform complex experiments which, normally, could only run on an optical bench the “size of a large dining table”. This chip is about the size of an ant’s dining table – 70mm x 3mm. 

In it is a network of tiny channels, the team says, which can manipulate and interact single photons. It has eight configurable electrodes embedded in the circuit, meaning photon pairs can be manipulated and entangled. That, in turn, means the chip produces any possible entangled state of two photons or a mixed state of one photon.

Key to the study is the fact it’s reconfigurable. If a quantum computer can only perform one specific task it’s not too helpful. Lead author Peter Shadbolt said what is preferred is a reconfigurable device that can run different tasks, like desktop PCs, which is exactly what he claims to have created. The device is roughly ten times more complex, the team says, than previous experiments looking at the technology – which is of note because difficult experiments can be performed in an easy way on the reconfigurable chip.

Next is scaling up the complexity of the device. The researchers believe it’s a “building block” for future quantum computing and it has been described by a top boffin at Imperial College London, Dr Terry Rudolph, as “an awesome achievement.”

Semiconductor allows room temperature quantum computing

Quantum computing is continuing to make its staggering progress towards reality with the discovery that a common semiconductor can produce quantum bits.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have found that silicon carbide is able to produce quantum bits, or qubits, at room temperature.  This means that the commonly found material could be used as the basis for a whole generation of computers with mind-boggling speeds, using the equally mind-warping world of quantum physics.  All this served at the same temperature as a good red wine.

The breakthrough is thanks to crystal imperfections found in the silicon carbide by the boffins at UCSB.  In traditional semiconductor computing these defects stuff up the flow of electrons by trapping them in crystal, the researchers found that this had advantages on the quantum level.

The ‘trapping’ of electrons  allows their quantum states to be initialised and manipulated, meeting the requirements to be classed as a qubit.  This can be achieved at room temperature too, while most quantum bit materials are able to function only when cooled to near absolute zero, which is a little cold to stick on your desktop.

It is not the first material to function as a qubit at room temperature however.  A flaw in diamond known as the nitrogen-vacancy centre can operate in this way.  But using material which is difficult to grow and manufacture into integrated circuits means it has drawbacks that silicon carbide does not have.

Silicon carbide is actually already used as a semiconductor in a wide array of electronic production methods for commercial products.

The infra red light, used to manipulate the qubits in the material, is similar to that used in conventional telecommunications networks, meaning that the boffins think it should be a doddle to work on further developments.

There have been many developments with quantum computing to date and the researchers hope that their discovery will give a greater level control, with the goal of making quantum mechanics fully engineerable.

UCSB has already made some inroads into rudimentrary chip design using quantum theory.  A cat, which was potentially neither dead, nor alive, had no comment to make.