3rd February 2017
Quantum computer blueprint published
Researchers led by the University of Sussex have published the first practical blueprint for how to build a large-scale quantum computer.
An international team, led by a scientist from the University of Sussex, has published the first practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer – the most powerful computer in the world. This huge leap forward towards creating a universal quantum computer is detailed in the influential journal Science Advances.
It has long been known that such a computer would revolutionise industry, science and commerce on a similar scale as the invention of ordinary computers. But this new work features the actual industrial blueprint to construct such a large-scale machine, more powerful in solving certain problems than any computer ever built before.
Once operational, the computer's capabilities mean it would have the potential to answer many questions in science; solve the most mind-boggling scientific and mathematical problems; unravel some of the deepest mysteries of space; create revolutionary new medicines; and solve problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.
The work features a new invention permitting actual quantum bits to be transmitted between individual quantum computing modules, in order to obtain a fully modular large-scale machine reaching nearly arbitrary large computational processing powers.
Previously, scientists had proposed using fibre optic connections to connect individual computer modules. The new invention introduces connections created by electric fields that allow charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another. This new approach allows 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology.
The new blueprint is the work of an international team of scientists from the University of Sussex (UK), Google (USA), Aarhus University (Denmark), RIKEN (Japan) and Siegen University (Germany).
Professor Winfried Hensinger, head of the Ion Quantum Technology Group at the University of Sussex, who has been leading this research, said: "For many years, people said that it was completely impossible to construct an actual quantum computer. With our work, we have not only shown that it can be done, but now we are delivering a nuts and bolts construction plan to build an actual large-scale machine."
Lead author Dr Bjoern Lekitsch, also from the University of Sussex, explains: "It was most important to us to highlight the substantial technical challenges as well as to provide practical engineering solutions."
As a next step, the team will construct a prototype quantum computer, based on this design, at the University.
This effort is part of the UK Government's £270m ($337m) plan to accelerate the introduction of quantum technologies into the marketplace. It makes use of a recent invention by the Sussex team that can replace billions of laser beams required for large-scale quantum computer operations with the simple application of voltages to a microchip.
"The availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society as a whole," said Professor Hensinger. "Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK's strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen."
The computer's possibilities for solving, explaining or developing could be endless. However, its size will be anything but small. The machine is expected to fill a large building, consisting of sophisticated vacuum apparatus featuring integrated quantum computing silicon microchips that hold individual charged atoms (ions) using electric fields.
The blueprint to develop such computers has been made public to ensure scientists throughout the world can collaborate and further develop this awesome technology as well as to encourage industrial exploitation.
Note: All images courtesy of the University of Sussex
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