Researchers get closer to next gen computers
Quantum computers, currently the stuff of science fiction, will make their existing counterparts seem like obsolete and bumbling relics of a bygone era. Last year’s Hollywood blockbuster Transformers showcased how the bad guys, relying on quantum computing, broke into highly classified Pentagon files in just 10 seconds flat.
Now Indian American Prem Kumar of the Centre for Photonic Communication and Computing and his research group are a step closer to realising the dream machine.
The group recently demonstrated one of the basic building blocks for quantum computing using entangled photons generated in optical fibres, which was published in the latest edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.
“Because it is done with fibre and the technology that is already globally deployed, we think that it is a significant step in harnessing the power of quantum computers,” Kumar said.
Quantum computing differs from classical computing in that a classical computer works by processing “bits” that exist either as one or zero. Quantum computing uses quantum bits, or qubits, which, in addition to being one or zero can also be both simultaneously.
This is possible because qubits are quantum units like atoms, ions, or photons that operate under the rules of quantum mechanics instead of classical mechanics. The “superposition” state allows a quantum computer to process significantly more information than a classical computer and in a much shorter time.
The area of quantum computing took off about 14 years ago after physicist Peter Shor created a quantum algorithm that could factor large integers much more efficiently than a classical computer. Though researchers are still many years away from creating a quantum computer capable of running the Shor algorithm, progress has been made. Kumar’s group, which uses photons as qubits, found that they could entangle two indistinguishable photons together in an optical fibre very efficiently by using its inherent non-linear response.
They also found that no matter how far you separate the two photons in standard transmission fibres they remain entangled and are “mysteriously” connected to each other’s quantum state. Kumar says such a network could help out with high stakes auctions, permitting the government to save billions of dollars by authorising companies to bid in a way that makes the process more efficient and cost effective.