Quantum is nearing a turning point. A team of physicists from the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms and other universities have developed a special type of quantum computer known as a programmable quantum simulator that can work with 256 quantum bits, or “qubits”.
The system scores an important step towards the construction of large-scale quantum machines which could be used to shed light on a range of complex quantum processes and ultimately help make real breakthroughs in materials science, communication technologies, finance and many other fields, overcome obstacles to research that are beyond capabilities even of today’s fastest supercomputers.
Qubits are the fundamental building blocks on which quantum computers and the source run of their enormous processing power. “This moves the field into a new domain that no one has ever been in until now”, said Mikhail Lukin, physics professor George Vasmer Leverett, co-director of the Harvard Quantum Initiative and one of the senior authors of the recently published study. in the journal Nature, “We are entering a completely new part of the quantum world”.
According to Sepehr Ebadi, a physics student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study, it is the combination of unprecedented size and programmability of the system that puts it at the forefront of the race for a quantum computer, which exploits the mysterious properties of matter on extremely small scales to dramatically increase processing power.
Under the right circumstances, the increase in qubits means that the system can store and process exponentially more information than the classic bits that standard computers run on. “The number of quantum states that are possible with only 256 qubits exceeds the number of atoms in the solar system”Ebadi said, explaining the vast scale of the system.