The promise of quantum computing is that it will dramatically outshine traditional computers in tackling certain key problems: searching large databases, factoring large numbers, creating uncrackable codes and simulating the atomic structure of materials.
A quantum step in that direction, if you'll pardon the pun, has been taken by Stanford researchers who announced their success in a paper published in the journal Nature. Working in the Ginzton Laboratory, they've employed ultrafast lasers to set a new speed record for the time it takes to rotate the spin of an individual electron and confirm the spin's new position.
Why does that matter? Existing computers, from laptops to supercomputers, see data as bits of information. Each bit can be either a zero or a one. But a quantum bit can be both zero and one at the same time, a situation known as a superposition state. This allows quantum computers to act like a massively parallel computer in some circumstances, solving problems that are almost impossible for classic computers to handle.
Quantum computing can be accomplished using a property of electrons known as "spin." A single unit of quantum information is the qubit, and can be constructed from a single electron spin, which in this experiment was confined within a nano-sized semiconductor known as a quantum dot.
An electron spin may be described as up or down (a variation of the usual zero and one) and may be manipulated from one state to another. The faster these electrons can be switched, the more quickly numbers can be crunched in a quantum fashion, with its intrinsic advantages over traditional computing designs.
The qubit in the Stanford experiment was manipulated and measured about 100 times faster than with previous techniques, said one of the researchers, David Press, a graduate student in applied physics.
The experiments were conducted at a temperature of almost absolute zero, inside a stro
|Contact: Dan Stober|