Scientists just achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing
A research team from Japan’s Institute of Molecular Sciences has taken a big step forward in quantum computing, thanks to a two-qubit gate. A qubit is the quantum equivalent of a binary bit, which is a basic unit of information used in computing.
The team managed to run the world’s fastest two-qubit gate in just 6.5 nanoseconds. In the process, the researchers had to overcome some of the limitations associated with this type of technology. However, there is a catch – the method they used might be difficult to replicate in a less research-based environment.
Quantum computing is still somewhat uncharted territory, but it could be the gateway to solving problems that modern computers cannot. It could also significantly speed up high-performance computing (HPC) tasks. While the potential is definitely there and tech giants such as IBM and Intel are exploiting it, the limits are also there, and that’s why research teams around the world continue to explore the subject. .
The team of scientists from the Molecular Sciences Institute, led by graduate student Yeelai Chew, assistant professor Sylvain de Léséleuc and professor Kenji Ohmori, conducted the research and published their findings in Nature Photonics. The two-qubit gate operation they were able to perform is an early but important step. Tom’s Hardware was one of the first publications to detail the process after the initial Nature article appeared online.
The researchers used lasers to dramatically cool two atom-qubits.
Qubits are the quantum equivalent of the bits we all know from everyday computing. However, qubits have an advantage: they are not limited to a value of one or zero; instead, they can represent both a and zero. This makes them much more efficient and unleashes their ability to complete complex tasks in a much, much shorter time. Unfortunately, qubits decay quickly, which means they no longer return accurate results.
A two-qubit gate operation requires the qubits to be entangled, and this entanglement is affected by various factors that can accelerate decoherence. The problem of decoherence can be dealt with in two ways: the operations must be performed much faster, before the qubits become decoherent, or the entanglement must last longer. The science team opted for the first approach, which was to speed things up dramatically – and they did just that, setting a world record in the process.
The researchers used lasers to dramatically cool two atom-qubits made from the element Rubidium. Temperatures hit absolute zero, dropping to -273.15 degrees Celsius. These atoms were then clamped within a micrometer of each other through the use of optical tweezers. Then they used a laser to manipulate the qubits at 10 picosecond intervals. A picosecond is one trillionth of a second.
Using the above steps, the researchers were able to successfully execute a quantum gate in just 6.5 nanoseconds, making it the fastest two-qubit gate operation in the world. The previous record was 15 nanoseconds.
While this leap doesn’t mean quantum computing will suddenly become mainstream, it does mean that scientists are making great strides in this direction. Unfortunately, this type of technology might be difficult to replicate in an HPC environment, where it would be most commonly used.
The rubidium atom qubits that were used by the researchers to run this ultrafast qubit gate must be cooled near absolute zero to work. This may be possible in special cases, but in reality most organizations would turn to a different solution until it becomes more manageable. On the other hand, while this technology won’t ever become mainstream, research is important as scientists continue to try to figure out where exactly the future of computing lies.