NEC demonstrates solid step forward for quantum devices

Researchers at NEC have made a breakthrough in quantum computing that brings closer the realization of powerful computers that make today's most advanced machines look like pocket calculators.

The researchers have succeeded in getting a pair of quantum bits, or qubits, connected together in such a way that they act as a single entity, the first time that this has been demonstrated with solid-state qubits, NEC said.

Details of the research, which was led by Tsai Jaw-Shen, a research fellow at NEC's fundamental research laboratories, appear in Thursday's edition of the British scientific journal Nature.

Qubits are the quantum equivalent of the classical bits which operate in conventional computer systems today. They have a number of exotic properties which hold out the eventual promise of a completely new level of computing power once the extremely difficult technical problems are overcome.

In the NEC experiment, the single pair of qubits was held for just one-millionth of a second in a state known as quantum entanglement, which is key to achieving quantum computing.

Among the startling properties of qubits is that they do not just hold either binary 1 or binary 0, but can hold a superposition of the two states simultaneously. As the number of qubits grows, so does the number of distinct states which can be represented by entangled qubits. Two qubits can hold four distinct states which can be processed simultaneously, three qubits can hold eight states, and so on in an exponential progression.

So a system with just 10 qubits could carry out 1,024 operations simultaneously as though it were a massively parallel processing system. A 40-qubit system could carry out one trillion simultaneous operations. A 100-qubit system could carry out one trillion trillion simultaneous operations.

"A quantum computer of 100 bits could solve in a millisecond a problem that it takes the Earth Simulator to solve in 100 million years," said Tsai referring to a supercomputer built by NEC that is currently the world's most powerful computer.

At present, Tsai said, researchers don't see quantum computing as replacing all types of computer because it is only viewed as being suitable for factorization, which has immediate application in the area of code breaking.

Most modern encryption systems rely on the inability of current computers to factorize extremely large numbers which serve as encryption keys. The inherent massively parallel processing properties of quantum computers could render this task trivial, scientists believe.

"Every government is looking at this because of the military and financial security implications by realizing this kind of computing," said Eiichi Maruyama, director of the Frontier Research System at Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), which partially funded NEC's research. He said such quantum computers will be much cheaper than classical computers and, according to some researchers, could become a practical proposition any time between 10 and 30 years from now.

Looking ahead, Tsai said his next task is to try to extend the time that the qubits are in quantum entanglement. Beyond that, he is looking into constructing a logic gate, one of the basic building blocks of a computer system, using qubits.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?