First solid-state quantum processor developed.

03 July 2009

Quantum computing, thought by many to be the holy grail of information technology, is based upon one of the basic tenants of quantum mechanics: a particle, be it a photon, a hydrogen atom, or a molecule of water, exists in a multitude of states (location, spin, orientation, what have you) until you actually examine it, at which time the particle suddenly 'picks' a state and stays that way as long as you're watching.  At least that's the most commonly quoted interpretation of the math.  At Yale University a team of scientists has created the first purely electronic quantum processor and put it through a basic set of tests.  The quantum processor implements only two qubits but that's enough to search and sort an array of values.  More's the point, this is the first non-trivial quantum processor built using solid-state electronics and not lasers and beam splitters.  Each qubit isn't made up of individual atoms but molecules of aluminum which exhibit the same properties en masse for limited periods of time.  By limited periods of time, I mean somewhen in the neighborhood of a microsecond.  Not long, to be sure, but several orders of magnetude longer than the first qubits created ten years ago which lasted for a couple of nanoseconds at most.

I'd say this is most definitely a technology to keep an eye on.  It's taken ten years to go from a single photon to a pair of (massive) aluminum molecules on a chip.  Where will quantum processing be in another decade?  And when will they leave the lab?