A quantum computer works with more than zero and one


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The Innsbruck quantum computer stores information in individual trapped calcium atoms, each of which has eight states, of which scientists have used up to seven for calculations. Credit: University of Innsbruck/Harald Rich.

We all know from the beginning that computers work with zeros and ones, also known as binary information. This approach has been so successful that computers now power everything from coffee makers to self-driving cars, and it’s hard to imagine life without them.

Building on this success, modern quantum computers are also being designed with binary information processing in mind. “However, the building blocks of quantum computers are more than just zeros and ones,” explains Martin Ringbauer, an experimental physicist from Innsbruck, Austria. “Limiting them to binary systems prevents these devices from realizing their true potential.”

A team led by Thomas Montz from the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck has succeeded in developing a quantum computer that can perform arbitrary computations using so-called quantum digits (qubits), thereby unlocking more computing power with fewer quantum particles. Their research has been published in Physics of nature.

Quantum systems are different

Although storing information in 0s and 1s is not the most efficient way to perform calculations, it is the easiest. Simplicity often also means robustness and reliability, which is why binary information has become the unquestioned standard for classical computers.

In the quantum world, the situation is completely different. For example, in the Innsbruck quantum computer, information is stored in individual trapped calcium atoms. Each of these atoms naturally has eight different states, of which usually only two are used to store information. Indeed, almost all existing quantum computers have access to more quantum states than they use for computation.

A quantum computer works with more than zero and one

Quantum physicist Martin Ringbauer in his laboratory. Credit: University of Innsbruck

A natural approach to hardware and software

Physicists from Innsbruck have developed a quantum computer that can harness the full potential of these atoms by performing calculations using qubits. Unlike the classical case, using more states does not make the computer less reliable. “Quantum systems naturally have more than two states, and we have shown that we can control them all equally well,” says Thomas Monz.

On the other hand, many problems that require quantum computers to solve, such as problems in physics, chemistry, or materials science, are also naturally expressed in Qudita. Rewriting them for qubits can often make them too complex for modern quantum computers. “Working with a large number of zeros and ones is very natural not only for a quantum computer, but also for its applications, which allows us to unlock the true potential of quantum systems,” explains Martin Ringbauer.

Error-free quantum computing becomes a reality

Additional Information:
Martin Ringbauer, Universal Trapped Ion Quantum Processor, Physics of nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41567-022-01658-0.

Courtesy of the University of Innsbruck.

Quote: A quantum computer runs with more than zero and one (2022 July 21), retrieved July 22, 2022 from

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