Quantum leap in hi-tech performance

September 25, 2008

For years, physicists have been heralding the revolutionary potential of using quantum mechanics to build a new generation of supercomputers, unbreakable codes, and ultra-fast and secure communication networks.

The brave new world of quantum technology may be a big step closer to reality thanks to a team of University of Calgary researchers that has come up with a unique new way of testing quantum devices to determine their function and accuracy. Their breakthrough is reported in today's edition of Science Express, the advanced online publication of the prestigious journal Science.

"Building quantum machines is difficult because they are very complex, therefore the testing you need to do is also very complex," said Barry Sanders, director of the U of C's Institute for Quantum Information Science and a co-author of the paper. "We broke a bunch of taboos with this work because we have come up with an entirely new way of testing that is relatively simple and doesn't require a lot of large and expensive diagnostic equipment."

Similar to any electronic or mechanical device, building a quantum machine requires a thorough understanding of how each part operates and interacts with other parts if the finished product is going to work properly. In the quantum realm, scientists have been struggling to find ways to accurately determine the properties of individual components as they work towards creating useful quantum systems. The U of C team has come up with a highly-accurate method for analyzing quantum optical processes using standard optical techniques involving lasers and lenses.

"It is a completely different approach to quantum characterization than we have seen before," said post-doctoral researcher Mirko Lobino, the paper's lead author. "This process will be able to tell us if something is working correctly and will hopefully lead the way towards a quantum certification process as we move from quantum science to making quantum technology."

The development of quantum computers is considered the next major advancement in computer processing and memory power but is still in its infancy. Unlike regular silicon-based computers that transmit information in binary units (bits) using 1 and 0, quantum computers use the subatomic physical processes of quantum mechanics to transmit information in quantum bits (qubits) that can exist in more than two states. Computers based on quantum physics are predicted to be far more powerful than computers based on classical physics and could break many of the most advanced codes currently used to secure digital information. Quantum physics is also being used to try and create new, unbreakable encryption systems.

The same research group at the U of C, led by physics professor Alexander Lvovsky, made headlines earlier this year when they were one of two teams to independently prove it's possible to store a special kind of light, called a "squeezed vacuum." That work is considered the initial step towards creating memory systems for quantum computing.

Source: University of Calgary

Explore further: Quantum insulation: Intemperate atoms can't come to equilibrium

Related Stories

Dimensionality transition in a newly created material

November 30, 2015

Iron oxides occur in nature in many forms, often significantly different from each other in terms of structure and physical properties. However, a new variety of iron oxide, recently created and tested by scientists in Cracow, ...

Recommended for you

Test racetrack dipole magnet produces record 16 tesla field

November 30, 2015

A new world record has been broken by the CERN magnet group when their racetrack test magnet produced a 16.2 tesla (16.2T) peak field – nearly twice that produced by the current LHC dipoles and the highest ever for a dipole ...

Turbulence in bacterial cultures

November 30, 2015

Turbulent flows surround us, from complex cloud formations to rapidly flowing rivers. Populations of motile bacteria in liquid media can also exhibit patterns of collective motion that resemble turbulent flows, provided the ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

November 25, 2015

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 26, 2008
"Building quantum machines is difficult because they are very complex, therefore the testing you need to do is also very complex," said Barry Sanders

Wow, I never knew he could play ball AND solve quantum equations....It just goes to show you...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.