With NASA and google aiming to showcase new quantum computer technology, an interesting progression in quantum physics may have taken place. Studies exploring quantum mechanics may have contributed to this progression and we soon may learn what the products of this endeavour might be.
The quantum world has been long examined and noted for its unique nature, this is where events take place which defy the classical world and physicists are still aiming to understand the processes which take place at this level of reality. The definition of quantum is the minimum amount of any physical property involved in any interaction; these are interactions at the smallest level of the universe. The realisation of how this quantum world may be controlled is the aim of physicists, earlier exploration culminated in technologies like transistors, semiconductors, solar panels and lasers. Semiconductors are reliant on the movement of electrons and solar panels use quantum dots to absorb photons, using the quantum insight into the processes of photosynthesis.
Quantum computers are another theoretical application of quantum physics and differ from traditional computing because they are based on quantum bits. These qubits may represent a zero or a one or both at the same time in comparison to traditional computers which use bits which necessarily are either a one or a zero. This more complex functioning allows information to be processed in ways unavailable to classical computers because of the use of phenomena such as quantum tunnelling and quantum entanglement. Quantum tunnelling rests on the ability of particles to pass a barrier, a process important to the theories of quantum computer function, cultivating it within the computer is essential to a practical realisation.
The phenomenon of quantum entanglement is evident when pairs or groups of particles act as a whole, with an invisible energy controlling particle actions. The quantum state of each particle may be therefore unable to be analysed independently, when entangled. Until recently, entanglement in hardware may have been possible at cryogenic temperatures (below 196centigrade) creating a significant hurdle for researchers in developing viable quantum computers. Today, a new study into quantum entanglement by Klimov and his colleagues may have shown successful entanglement at room temperature, this may provide a further improvement needed for the proper functioning of quantum computers. Additionally, the team proposed how long distance entangled states may be used for synchronising satellites.
Overcoming these challenges may allow quantum computers to become a tangible reality although considerable technological advancements might still be necessary. The question of whether Google’s D-wave computer may be classified as a quantum computer has been debated and many contest this, nonetheless evidence demonstrates the computer adopts features of quantum mechanics. Utilising quantum annealing the computer starts from a superposition of all possible states, which means solutions which improve optimisation may be found using a set procedure or algorithm. Even though elements of the remarkably small quantum world exist even in classical computers (as transistors store a single bit of information) to be considered genuine it needs to encapsulate quantum entanglement and tunnelling.
The quantum artificial intelligence lab was launched in 2013 by Google, NASA and the USRA to study how quantum computing may support progress in machine learning. This development relies on mathematic models needed to solve optimisation challenges, and the collaboration may have already helped to develop quantum machine learning algorithms. The group’s aim was to move theory into practical hardware and on December the 6th 2015 the team will be presenting a new 1097 qubit D-wave quantum computer; this is homed in its own facility in the quantum artificial intelligence laboratory. The team are using the computer to solve the optimisation challenges in aeronautics, natural sciences and space exploration.
What this research may have uncovered might be of paramount importance to the future of and the purpose of quantum computers. If revolutionary advances have been discovered this may mean a significant change in the power of computing. The question of what needs to be elaborated before a quantum computer may be possible for the public, may have been refined and new opportunities created.
How may physicists advance the understanding of quantum mechanics?