Researchers take big step towards quantum computers

Oct 15, 2014, 5:08 PM EDT
A pictures shows binary code reflected from a computer screen in a woman's eye on October 22, 2012.
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Researchers in Australia have published that they have made important progress in developing quantum computers. Quantum technology provides better performance and accuracy of 99%, although some warn of its potential to shift the current encryption protocols. The Guardian explains:

The Australian researchers claim to have developed two new types of quantum bits, or “qubits”, that can perform operations with accuracy above 99%.
Where traditional computers perform their calculations in binary – using 1s and 0s – quantum computers exploit the odd characteristics of the quantum state of particles at the atomic scale.
At their heart, they put the qubits into a state of “superposition” where, like Schrödinger’s famous cat, their value isn’t definitely 1 nor 0, but both at the same time. To “solve” a calculation, the quantum state is ended, so that the qubits take a classic 1 or 0 value. Setting the quantum states and superposition up correctly should mean a quantum computer will reach the same answer as a normal one.
The difference is that once the problem has been set up, a quantum computer can reach its final answer almost instantaneously because the qubits will “collapse” to the correct answer, rather than having to work through a sequence of calculations like a normal digital computer.
"We have demonstrated that with silicon qubit we can have the accuracy needed to build a real quantum computer. That's the first time this has been done in silicon," Discovery News quoted one of the authors, Prof. Andrew Dzurak of the University of New South Wales, as saying.
The scientists said they were also able to increase the length of time with which information was retained in their silicon qubits, a function known as "coherence time," the site said.
Dzurak explained to Discovery News how he and his colleagues were able to improve the reliability of their silicon qubits using a phosphorous atom.
"In natural silicon each atom also has its own spin which affects the phosphorous atom, which is why the accuracy was only 50 per cent," he told the site. "We solved the problem by removing all the silicon 29 isotopes that have magnetic spin leaving only silicon 28, which has no magnetic spin to influence the phosphorous, giving us an accuracy of 99.99 per cent."