First ever blueprint unveiled to construct a large scale quantum computer

February 1, 2017
Prototype of the core of a trapped ion quantum computer. Credit: Ion Quantum Technology Group, University of Sussex

An international team, led by a scientist from the University of Sussex, have today unveiled the first practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer, the most powerful computer on Earth.

This huge leap forward towards creating a universal quantum computer is published today (1 February 2017) in the influential journal Science Advances (1). It has long been known that such a computer would revolutionise industry, science and commerce on a similar scale as the invention of ordinary computers. But this new work features the actual industrial blueprint to construct such a large-scale machine, more powerful in solving certain problems than any computer ever constructed before.

Once built, the computer's capabilities mean it would have the potential to answer many questions in science; create new, lifesaving medicines; solve the most mind-boggling scientific problems; unravel the yet unknown mysteries of the furthest reaches of deepest space; and solve some problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.

The work features a new invention permitting actual quantum bits to be transmitted between individual quantum computing modules in order to obtain a fully modular large-scale machine capable of reaching nearly arbitrary large computational processing powers.

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A short film where Prof Hensinger unveils the blueprint for a large scale quantum computer. Credit: University of Sussex

Previously, scientists had proposed using fibre optic connections to connect individual computer modules. The introduces connections created by electric fields that allow charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another. This new approach allows 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology.

The new blueprint is the work of an international team of scientists from the University of Sussex (UK), Google (USA), Aarhus University (Denmark), RIKEN (Japan) and Siegen University (Germany).

Prof Winfried Hensinger (2), head of Ion Quantum Technology Group (3) at the University of Sussex, who has been leading this research, said: "For many years, people said that it was completely impossible to construct an actual quantum computer. With our work we have not only shown that it can be done but now we are delivering a nuts and bolts construction plan to build an actual large-scale machine."

Prof. Hensinger (right) and Dr Lekitsch (left) with a quantum computing blueprint model behind a quantum computer prototype at the University of Sussex. Credit: University of Sussex

Lead author Bjoern Lekitsch, also from the University of Sussex, explains: "It was most important to us to highlight the substantial technical challenges as well as to provide practical engineering solutions".

As a next step, the team will construct a prototype quantum computer, based on this design, at the University.

The effort is part of the UK Government's plan to develop quantum technologies towards industrial exploitation and makes use of a recent invention (4) by the Sussex team to replace billions of laser beams required for quantum computing operations within a large-scale quantum computer with the simple application of voltages to a microchip.

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Video explaining the design of a scalable trapped ion quantum computer. Credit: Lekitsch et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601540

Prof Hensinger said: "The availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society as a whole. Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK's strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen."

The computer's possibilities for solving, explaining or developing could be endless. However, its size will be anything but small. The machine is expected to fill a large building, consisting of sophisticated vacuum apparatus featuring integrated silicon microchips that hold individual charged atoms (ions) using electric fields.

The blueprint to develop such computers has been made public to ensure scientists throughout the world can collaborate and further develop this brilliant, ground-breaking technology as well as to encourage industrial exploitation.

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A popular science lecture given by Prof. Hensinger explaining the principles of quantum computing

Explore further: Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified

More information: 'Blueprint for a microwave trapped ion quantum computer' B. Lekitsch, S. Weidt, A.G. Fowler, K. Mølmer, S.J. Devitt, Ch. Wunderlich, and W.K. Hensinger, Science Advances 3, e1601540 (2017) advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/2/e1601540

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13 comments

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RichManJoe
Feb 01, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
lkomratov
Feb 01, 2017
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Da Schneib
4 / 5 (2) Feb 01, 2017
The first ones will be the size of a building.

Going by Moore's Law, we can expect to have these in cell phones in 20 years. We're talking about more computing power in a hand held device than all that exists on the entire Earth right now.

How will that change things? We don't know. We can't imagine it. Sixty years ago you could count the number of science fiction stories that predicted personal computers on your hands.
rrrander
not rated yet Feb 01, 2017
Optical computing was supposed to be something too. Nothing came of it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2017

Going by Moore's Law, we can expect to have these in cell phones in 20 years. We're talking about more computing power in a hand held device than all that exists on the entire Earth right now
We need the things that cell phones do now to be implanted in our brains. Can these things be implanted?

Will they be able to decipher the internal dialogue so that we wont have to type and talk to them any more?

The future interface will be indistinguishable from the way we now talk to ourselves. We should recieve video in our eyes, audio in our ears. Our senses will be theirs. Perhaps they will give us new ones.

The best way to create holograms is inside our brains.
TheGhostofOtto1923
Feb 02, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Zzzzzzzz
Feb 02, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
FriendshipCube
not rated yet Feb 02, 2017
I've envisioned manufacturing the quantum array transponder, capable of receiving, decoding, and transmitting visual binary data as light signals, 22bits at a time, much like a tiny fiber-optic cable. Some of the data is up online, search #FriendshipCube.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Feb 02, 2017
I don"t recall seeing this much active moderation before
Watch out - your comment is off topic and also very tiny.

My comment was

"Try jumping off a 20 story building on a holodeck."

--which was a continuation of my previous comment, which were both on topic, which they would have known had they read them.
El_Nose
not rated yet Feb 02, 2017
@rrrander

Optical computing is a thing and is in the process of adpotion and integration. On chip photonics will speed up and reduce energy on almost everything once in place.

@Da Schneib

No evidence what so ever that miniturization can be done with quantum computers -- remember regular computers could at least be run in a a room temperature environment
-- but it would be awesome

Ryan1981
not rated yet Feb 03, 2017
The first ones will be the size of a building.

Going by Moore's Law, we can expect to have these in cell phones in 20 years. We're talking about more computing power in a hand held device than all that exists on the entire Earth right now.

How will that change things? We don't know. We can't imagine it. Sixty years ago you could count the number of science fiction stories that predicted personal computers on your hands.


Wonder if moore's law applies, it already uses structures at nano scales so there must be another reason its this big since I doubt the full building will be filled with nanometer sized structures

Also, the computing power is not generally faster, just for certain type of problems if I recall correctly.

Never the less, I expect it will speed up our progress in the technology age significantly who knows what the future will bring!
rogerdallas
not rated yet Feb 03, 2017
I'm still unclear about the programming language one would use on a quantum computer. I'm not aware of any alternatives to the traditional logical structures. I can't even see how superposition could be incorporated into any new language. Either-or, both, or none, or sometimes all of the above? How do you formulate that?
outersphere
1 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2017
We already know the answer of the question concerning Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42. So it's time to work on the next generation now.

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