What's the next big thing in data processing? It's the quantum computer -- a powerful machine capable of solving complex problems much faster than classical ones.
Classical computers use bits (binary numbers 0 and 1) to represent data, while quantum computers, which operate on a different level, rely on quantum bits that can make use of both 0 and 1 simultaneously.
Only a few quantum computers exist today, including Canadian company D-Wave's 2000Q computer, which is capable of harnessing 2,000 quantum bits, and is being fixed at a price of $15 million. Although these computers are billed as the future of computing, moving them to an industrial scale is still a difficult feat.
Someday, however, these quantum computers may become more accessible. An international team of researchers has unveiled the first ever practical blueprint to building these powerful machines.
Winfried Hensinger, a professor at the United Kingdom's University of Sussex who led the project, said the study delivers the "nuts and bolts construction plan" to creating a large-scale, fully functioning quantum computer.
"[N]ow is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK's strengths in this ground-breaking technology," said Hensinger.
Creating A Universal Quantum Computer
One of the biggest issues in data processing is the amount of energy used by the machine to perform an operation. To achieve energy-efficient computing, scientists are turning to quantum computers.
In the past, experts have proposed the use of fiber optic connections to link individual computer modules to obtain efficient computing powers.
Now, the new blueprint introduces connections produced by electric fields that transfer charged atoms from one computer module to another. This allows for 100,000 times faster connection speeds compared to current fiber link technology, a leap forward toward building a universal quantum computer.
What Can Quantum Computers Do?
We won't be seeing quantum computers in our homes or offices anytime soon, but the machine that Hensinger and his colleagues are working on will be used at an industrial scale. The entire machine may take up the space of entire buildings, consisting of sophisticated vacuums that feature quantum computing silicon microchips.
If successfully integrated into the industry, quantum computers can revolutionize science and technology: it can help create life-saving medicine, solve complex scientific problems, and unravel mysteries of deep space.
In the meantime, researchers are planning to take the project to the next level. Based on the blueprint, the team plans to build a prototype quantum computer.
The study, which was a collaboration between University of Sussex, Google, RIKEN, Siegen University, and Aarhus University, is featured in the journal Science Advances.