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Research opportunities

Our information society owes its existence in large part to Moore’s Law, the 40-year-old dictum that famously predicted that the number of components on an integrated circuit would continue to double every eighteen months or so.

As a result, each new generation of processors works twice as fast and has double the memory of the one preceding it. That’s because the electronic components keep getting smaller, working faster and shrinking the distance that signals must travel and the time it takes them to get there.

New materials and techniques keep Moore’s exponential growth going, but there are limits to how small things can get. In a decade or so, Moore’s Law will begin to collide with the laws of physics. Integrated circuitry will become so small that natural quantum fluctuations can perturb data bits.

 

Our approach

Evolving conventional IT will require control or suppression of these quantum mechanical effects. In contrast, Quantum Information Processing (QIP) attempts to use the laws of quantum physics to actively store, process and communicate data.

Researchers believe that QIP can exceed the limits of conventional IT and extend Moore’s Law by embracing a different type of physics, rather than fighting it.

How much more powerful might QIP be than conventional computing? Consider this: All the computing power available today could barely simulate the power of just 50 quantum bits (qubits) talking to each other.

Because quantum mechanical laws differ from the classical physics that govern conventional IT, QIP opens possibilities for new capabilities and applications. Qubits aren’t limited to the 1’s and 0’s of conventional computing. Instead, they have an infinite choice of values and can potentially perform multiple operations simultaneously.

We expect our work to complement conventional computing and potentially lead to vastly improved hybrid applications.

Research focus

Currently, we’re following two parallel research paths. Both are long-term efforts, involving collaboration with other researchers worldwide. We are:

  • seeking new applications of QIP that could form the basis for real-life products or applications
  • researching various routes for building actual QIP technologies

Many questions need to be answered before a quantum IT industry can emerge; our work focuses on phrasing and answering these questions.

Current work

Given current qubit resources, the first applications of QIP can realistically only involve very modest quantum processing, combined with quantum communication. We’re researching distributed QIP to enable useful transactions and tasks -- offering more security or functionality than conventional solutions.

We recently invented a method for performing distributed QIP optically -- using optical qubits and a coherent optical communication bus -- which makes efficient use of quantum resources. We’re now working to apply this 'quantum bus' approach to other qubit systems, such as atoms or fabricated quantum structures and circuits, which could form the first useful small-scale quantum computers, or simulators.

Future applications

Even with very modest (50-100 qubit) quantum simulators, QIP could ultimately create important opportunities in quantum physics, molecular chemistry, complex mathematics and other areas, addressing problems that are simply too complicated for today’s computers to tackle.

On a small scale, a relatively simple quantum processor containing just a few qubits might be used to create a quantum repeater, which would extend the distance for quantum communication.

This is the simplest use for QIP that we can currently imagine, and it’s reasonable to think that we might see such an application in the next several years.

Basic research & emerging markets

       
» Nanotechnology
» Quantum information processing
  » Information theory  
  » Market mechanisms  
  » Emerging international markets  
       
 
 

Related research

»  Quantum Information Processing Group
»  Quantum information processing publications
»  Nanophotonics
 

Learn more

»  Feature story: Scientific breakthrough a step toward quantum computing
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