Let There Be Light That Powers Quantum Computers

The key to the quantum computer may be a light, a new kind of light discovered by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Physics Creates New Form of Light That Could Drive the Quantum Computing Revolution

For the first time, scientists have watched groups of three photons interacting and effectively producing a new form of light.

In results published in Scienceresearchers suggest that this new light could be used to perform highly complex, incredibly fast quantum computations.

Photons are tiny particles that normally travel solo through beams of light, never interacting with each other. But in 2013 scientists made them clump together in pairs, creating a new state of matter. This discovery shows that interactions are possible on a greater scale.

“It was an open question,” Vladan Vuletic from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who led the team with Mikhail Lukin from Harvard University, said in a statement. “Can you add more photons to a molecule to make bigger and bigger things?”

…..This research is the latest step toward a long-fabled quantum computer, an ultra-powerful machine that could solve problems beyond the realm of traditional computers. Your desktop PC would, for example, struggle to solve the question: “If a salesman has lots of places to visit, what is the quickest route?”

“[A traditional computer] could solve this for a certain number of cities, but if I wanted to add more cities, it would get much harder, very quickly,” Vuletic previously stated in a press release.

Read More at Newsweek

From the press release:

The team’s results represent one of the largest arrays of quantum bits, known as qubits, that scientists have been able to individually control. In the same issue of Nature, a team from the University of Maryland reports a similarly sized system using trapped ions as quantum bits.

In the MIT-Harvard approach, the researchers generated a chain of 51 atoms and programmed them to undergo a quantum phase transition, in which every other atom in the chain was excited. The pattern resembles a state of magnetism known as an antiferromagnet, in which the spin of every other atom or molecule is aligned.

The team describes the 51-atom array as not quite a generic quantum computer, which theoretically should be able to solve any computation problem posed to it, but a “quantum simulator”—a system of quantum bits that can be designed to simulate a specific problem or solve for a particular equation, much faster than the fastest classical computer.

For instance, the team can reconfigure the pattern of atoms to simulate and study new states of matter and quantum phenomena such as entanglement. The new quantum simulator could also be the basis for solving optimization problems such as the traveling salesman problem, in which a theoretical salesman must figure out the shortest path to take in order to visit a given list of cities. Slight variations of this problem appear in many other areas of research, such as DNA sequencing, moving an automated soldering tip to many soldering points, or routing packets of data through processing nodes.

“This problem is exponentially hard for a classical computer, meaning it could solve this for a certain number of cities, but if I wanted to add more cities, it would get much harder, very quickly,” says study co-author Vladan Vuleti?, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics at MIT. “For this kind of problem, you don’t need a quantum computer. A simulator is good enough to simulate the correct system. So we think these optimization algorithms are the most straightforward tasks to achieve.”

The work was performed in collaboration with Harvard professors Mikhail Lukin and Markus Greiner; MIT visiting scientist Sylvain Schwartz is also a co-author.

Read More at phys.org

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