With these capabilities, the NIST team performed 160 different processing routines on the two qubits. Although there are an infinite number of possible two-qubit programs, this set of 160 is large and diverse enough to fairly represent them, Hanneke says, making the processor "universal." Key to the experimental design was use of a random number generator to select the particular routines that would be executed, so all possible programs had an equal chance of selection. This approach was chosen to avoid bias in testing the processor, in the event that some programs ran better or produced more accurate outputs than others.
Ions are among several promising types of qubits for a quantum computer. If they can be built, quantum computers have many possible applications such as breaking today's most widely used encryption codes, such as those that protect electronic financial transactions. In addition to its possible use as a module of a quantum computer, the new processor might be used as a miniature simulator for interactions in any quantum system that employs two energy levels, such as the two-level ion qubit systems that represent energy levels as 0s and 1s. Large quantum simulators could, for example, help explain the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity, the transmission of electricity with zero resistance at temperatures that may be practical for efficient storage and distribution of electric power.
The new paper is the same NIST research group's third major paper published this year based on data from experiments with trapped ions. They previously demonstrated
sustained quantum information processing (http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/
ion_trap_computers080609.html) and entanglement in a mechanical system similar to
those in the macroscopic everyday world (http://www.nist.gov/public_affai
|Contact: Laura Ost|
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)