New quantum hardware may allow computers to process information more naturally

    It’s no secret that quantum computers are advancing in both power and efficiency every day, and could eventually become a strategic asset that could even give governments an edge over each other. Simply looking at the timeline, quantum computers have come a long way in a very short amount of time, achieving quantum supremacy by demonstrating the ability to solve complex problems faster. traditional computers in 2019.

    Meanwhile, the federal government is planning for a post-quantum future where powerful quantum machines shred today’s encryption protections. NIST and private companies are currently scrambling to create new cybersecurity protections that can fend off a quantum attack. All of that points to a bright future for quantum computers, which only started to gain attention and interest around 2016 with their non-traditional methods of computing — seemingly breaking the norms of the past. laws of physics — to solve complex problems.

    However, below the surface, quantum computers still face many obstacles. The biggest point is that while they can quickly solve most problems, they also return a lot of wrong answers along with appropriate solutions. Imagine a student is given a long test at school, completes it in seconds, and then submits it with all the correct answers buried in pages of wrong answers. That student probably won’t get good grades. And yet, it’s the kind of data that quantum computers typically send back in response to queries. This is what quantum scientists call “noise,” and every quantum computer operating today, no matter how powerful it is, generates a lot of noise.

    There are many reasons why quantum computers make noise. They are very fragile, with their calculations affected by almost any external factor, including temperature, sound waves, vibrations, light, invisible quantum entanglement, and even background radiation. . That’s why most quantum machines are housed in vault-like dark boxes kept close to absolute zero.

    In addition to environmental factors, one of the biggest reasons for noise is the fact that quantum computer qubits, the equivalent of traditional computing bits, can exist in billions of possible states. can happen at the same time, whereas traditional computer bits are one or several zeros, with nothing in between. That’s why quantum computers can handle complex problems so quickly, but it’s also a big reason their results are so noisy. They can use superposition – having their qubits exist in multiple states – to solve a problem, but still be bound to binary computational structures when trying to perfect their results.

    Several post-processing solutions have been proposed to improve the accuracy of quantum computation. For example, combining a traditional supercomputer with a quantum machine and then charging that supercomputer with noise cancellation can speed up the time it takes to reach valid solutions, as well as can use artificial intelligence to remove a lot of obvious noise. Earlier this year, computer scientists suggested creating better software that would allow users to better question quantum computers in the first place.

    Most of the potential solutions to the quantum noise problem involve dealing with the problem after the fact. But now, some scientists have proposed a way to modify the hardware of quantum computers to eventually eliminate their dependence on binary computers. Essentially, their new quantum computer design will allow systems to get away with having to adapt to binary environments.

    In a paper published in the journal Nature Physics, computer scientists Martin Ringbauer, Michael Meth and others have proposed the design for a quantum processor that uses trapped ions as the core processor. core. This will allow their quantum machine to “think” in non-binary ways, where its qubits are subject to more than two states of matter (state one and zero state of traditional binary computers). ). Theoretically, this could not only speed up computations, but also eliminate the noise that occurs when trying to turn quantum computational solutions back into binary structures.

    As they explain, “Most quantum computers use binary encoding to store information in the form of qubits — the quantum analog of classical bits. However, the underlying physical hardware consists of information carriers that are not necessarily binary, but often exhibit a rich multilevel structure. Operating them as qubits artificially restricts their degrees of freedom to two energy levels. ”

    According to the paper, what quantum computers need to improve their accuracy is the ability to operate in higher-dimensional regions known as Hilbert spaces, essentially freeing them from structures. binary computer architecture. Their new hardware design can clearly do that, at least in theory. They even called the bits that their machine would use qudits instead of qubits.

    “Here we demonstrate a universal quantum processor using trapped ions that behaves as qudits with local Hilbert space sizes up to seven,” the authors state in their paper. . “With performance similar to qubit quantum processors, this approach enables native simulation of high-dimensional quantum systems, as well as more efficient implementation of qubit-based algorithms.”

    If quantum computers can be made to be more efficient, while also eliminating the noise they make with their answers, it could advance an already existing quantum development timeline. quick movement. It could also complicate government efforts to create post-quantum cryptographic security, which currently operates on the assumption that quantum computers will at least still depend on binary operations. . A computer that can break that link, can also break any post-quantum encryption that still relies on it.

    John Breeden II is an award-winning journalist and critic with over 20 years of technology experience. He is the CEO of Department of Technology Writers, a group that creates technology thought leadership content for organizations of all sizes. Twitter: @LabGuys

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