Quantum computing: ‘the best data we have ever seen’ thanks to shutdown

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WORLD VIEW

30 June 2020

Remotely controlled experiments are the way forward.

Christopher Monroe

Christopher Monroe is a physicist and engineer at the University of Maryland in College Park and at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He is also co-founder and chief scientist at IonQ.
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The COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown have been disastrous for many people. But one research project in my lab has been humming along, taking the best data my team has ever seen. It is an advanced ‘ion trap’ quantum computer, which uses laser beams to control an array of floating atoms.We spent three years setting it up to run remotely and autonomously. Now, we think more labs should run quantum-computing experiments like this, to speed up research.Quantum computers exploit the weird behaviour of matter at the atomic level. One particle can store many pieces of information, allowing the computers, in effect, to perform many calculations simultaneously. They promise to solve problems that are out of reach of conventional machines, and to speed up modelling of chemical reactions in batteries or drug design, or even simulations of information flow in black holes.But good quantum hardware is extremely fragile, and …

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