Feeds

US boffins build, test working 2-qubit quantum processor

Beryllium ions used in place of undead cats

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Federal boffins in America say they have built the first computer processing device able to handle quantum-mechanical numbers expressed as "qubits". Whereas a regular bit is either 1 or 0, a qubit can be 1, 0 or some of both just as a metaphorical cat in a box may be dead, alive or in a mysterious semi-undead waveform zombie condition.

The device was developed by scientists at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). According to the inventors, the new kit is a step forward on earlier and more primitive quantum gear in that it is programmable.

"This is the first time anyone has demonstrated a programmable quantum processor for more than one qubit," says NIST postdoc researcher David Hanneke. "It's a step toward the big goal of doing calculations with lots and lots of qubits. The idea is you'd have lots of these processors, and you'd link them together."

The machine's two qubits are held in the form of individual beryllium ions, which "are held in an electromagnetic trap and manipulated with ultraviolet lasers". There are also a brace of magnesium ions in the trap for the purpose of cooling the beryllium ions.

The NIST crew say they have verified that their gear is properly programmable by testing out 160 of the possible different programs one can write for a two-qubit device. Though there are an infinity of possible programs, according to the scientists, their properly-random check of 160 is sufficiently representative to show that the device works.

If many such devices could be successfully hooked together to create a quantum computer, various major consequences could be expected - not least the breaking of encryption regarded today as completely uncrackable. The NIST announcement, unsurprisingly, mentions the importance of the team's work to "national priority areas, such as information security", and the US military are also known to be interested in the idea.

There's plenty of work ahead before practical quantum computers can be assembled, however. At the moment, the 2-qubit processor is only 79 per cent accurate. With many such devices working together, this would be unacceptable. The NIST team acknowledge that accuracy needs to be "boosted substantially" before much progress can be made.

Hanneke and his colleagues' paper, Realization of a programmable two-qubit quantum processor, is published in Nature Physics. It can also be read online here (pdf). ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Attack of the clones: Oracle's latest Red Hat Linux lookalike arrives
Oracle's Linux boss says Larry's Linux isn't just for Oracle apps anymore
THUD! WD plonks down SIX TERABYTE 'consumer NAS' fatboy
Now that's a LOT of porn or pirated movies. Or, you know, other consumer stuff
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.