MIT researchers believe they have overcome a difficult challenge of practical quantum computing - the miniaturisation of qubit technology.
Quantum computer is not a reality yet, but efforts to create a superfast computer continue.
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Quantum computing has the potential to change the dynamics of how our computer systems work today, but there are some big hurdles in this way and the biggest of them probably is how to miniaturize qubit technology.
Qubit or quantum bit is the basic component of a quantum computer which has a capacity to solve large-scale computational problems in no time. But for building quantum computers that can perform complex enough calculations we will require miniaturize qubit technology, much the way the small transistors enabled modern computers.
Qubits based on trapped ions is the one of the most popular approaches proposed to a quantum computer but historically it requires large and complex hardware apparatus. Now, MIT researchers have developed a prototype chip that can trap ions in an electric field and can control ions by firing laser on each of them.
“If you look at the traditional assembly, it’s a barrel that has a vacuum inside it, and inside that is this cage that’s trapping the ions. Then there’s basically an entire laboratory of external optics that are guiding the laser beams to the assembly of ions,” said co-author Rajeev Ram, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT. “Our vision is to take that external laboratory and miniaturize much of it onto a chip.”
The chip with electrodes embedded in its surface can hold a very large number of ions that will be required for complex, large scale quantum computing. However, taking control of a single ion amongst many ions is difficult.
To solve this problem, researchers have built a suite of on-chip optical components that can channel laser beam towards individual ions and makes it easier to control the intended one.
“Trapped-ion qubits are well-known for being able to achieve record-breaking coherence times and very precise operations on small numbers of qubits. Arguably, the most important area in which progress needs to be made is technologies which will enable the systems to be scaled up to larger numbers of qubits. This is exactly the need being addressed so impressively by this research.” said David Lucas, a professor of physics at Oxford University.
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Lucas added. “As far as I know, this is the first serious attempt to integrate optical waveguides in the same chip as an ion trap, which is a very significant step forward on the path to scaling up ion-trap quantum information processors (QIP) to the sort of size which will ultimately contain the number of qubits necessary for doing useful QIP.”