Quantum computing, although still in its infancy, will increase the computing power of computers by using the weirdest particle behaviour on a very small scale, and some research groups are already reporting on the implementation of calculations that would take thousands of years for a traditional supercomputer. In the long run, quantum computers will provide indestructible encryption and modelling of nature beyond current capabilities.
A multidisciplinary research team led by the University of California in Los Angeles, which includes staff from Harvard University, has developed a fundamentally new strategy for the development of quantum computers. So far, engineers are using circuitry, semiconductors and other electrical tools, a team of scientists has developed a plan based on the ability of chemists to design atomic building blocks, and they control the properties of larger molecular structures when they come together.
The findings of researchers published in Nature Chemistry will eventually lead to a surge in quantum processing power.
"The idea is to allow the chemists to build it for us instead of creating a quantum computer," explains Eric Hudson, professor of physics at the University of California in Los Angeles and author of the study.
How do the cubits work?
The basic units of information in traditional computations are bits, each of which is limited to one of two values. On the contrary, a group of quantum bits — or cubes — can have a much wider range of values, exponentially increasing the computing power of a computer. Only 10 cubes require more than 1,000 regular bits, while 20 cubes require more than 1 million bits.
This characteristic, which underlies the transformative potential of quantum calculations, depends on the paradoxical rules that apply when atoms interact. For example, when two particles interact, they can become connected or confused, so the measurement of the properties of one determines the properties of the other. The confusion of cubes is a requirement for quantum calculations.
What's the problem?
However, this complexity is fragile: when the cubes face subtle changes in their surroundings, they lose their "quantity" that is needed to implement quantum algorithms, which limits the most powerful quantum computers to less than 100 cubes, and requires too much resources to maintain them in quantum state.
In order to apply quantum calculations in practice, engineers have to increase computing power. The authors of the study have advanced in this matter: they have created molecules that protect quantum behavior.
There's a solution.
Scientists have developed small molecules that include calcium and oxygen atoms and act as cubes. These calcium oxygen structures form what chemists call a functional group. They can be connected to almost any other molecule, and they can also give it unusual properties.
The team showed that their functional groups retain the desired structure even when they join much larger molecules. Their chemical cubes even withstand laser cooling, which is a key requirement for quantum computing.
What's that gonna mean?
If you link a quantum functional group to a surface or some long molecule, you can control a lot of cubes, explain the authors of the study, and scale will be very cheap. "Atom is one of the cheapest things in the universe. You can do as much as you want," said scientists.
In addition, a quantum functional group will be useful for fundamental discoveries in chemistry and life sciences, such as helping scientists learn more about the structure and functions of different molecules and chemicals in the human body.
Also, cubes can be used as highly sensitive instruments for measuring; the key is to protect them so that they survive in complex environments, such as biological systems, so that scientists get a lot of new information about our world.
However, the development of a quantum computer on a chemical basis can actually take decades and will not necessarily be successful, concluded by scientists. First, you have to tie the cubes to larger molecules, make them interact as processors without unwanted signals, and confuse them to function as a system.