First Programmable Quantum Computer Created

Ryan Whitwam

Moore’s Law states that approximately every two years, the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles. This has held true for the last 50 years. But there will come a point one day when physics puts a stop to that. Eventually the boundaries of atomic scale will limit transistor density. However, a new breakthrough in the field of quantum computing may provide hope for future advances. Until now, a quantum computing device had to be designed for one, and only one, operation. But scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have constructed the first programmable quantum processor.

Quantum processing units are fundamentally different in a number of ways. First, where a regular bit can be only 1 or 0, a quantum bit (or qubit) only assumes a value of 1 or 0 when it is observed. Additionally, Quantum computers aren’t bound by Boolean operators like ‘and, ‘or’ and ‘not’. Finally, two qubits can be “entangled”, meaning they will always have the same value when observed, even if separated.

The NIST computer consists of two quantum gates, one single qubit gate and an entangled two qubit gate. The gates utilized two beryllium ions stimulated with UV lasers to represent operations. The test programs run came back with 79% correct results. Certainly not perfect, but a huge step forward. You won’t be dropping one of these into a socket on your motherboard anytime soon, but maybe someday.

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