Researchers release first practical blueprint for large quantum computer

3 Feb 2017

Prototype of the core of a trapped ion quantum computer. Image: Ion Quantum Technology Group/University of Sussex

A team of international researchers has taken us one step closer to the quantum age, with the release of the first ever blueprint for a large-scale quantum computer.

A practical quantum computer – one that is able to surpass current binary computers by a factor of hundreds – is far from being a feasible option for any major manufacturer.

Despite a number of recent breakthroughs in the advanced field of computer science, including new records of unprecedented stability, quantum computers appear to be restricted to laboratories for the next few years.

Includes new invention

If they were to be introduced however, their computing power could potentially unlock secrets to mysteries in medicine, science and society that would have previously taken decades to solve.

Now an international team of researchers led by the University of Essex has done what no computer scientist has done before: create a practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer.

In a paper published in Science Advances, the researchers revealed a new invention that allows actual quantum bits to be transmitted between individual quantum computing modules.

This would allow a computer scientist to build a fully modular large-scale machine capable of reaching large computational processing powers.

It achieves this by introducing connections created by electric fields, allowing charged atoms to be transported from one module to another.

This latest approach allows for connection speeds that are 100,000 times faster, compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology.

Size is the biggest problem

The only problem for any researcher or organisation looking to use the blueprint to build a quantum computer, though, is sheer size.

In terms of scale, the specifications would make it the size of large building, with a system of complex vacuum apparatuses.

Speaking of the project, Prof Winfried Hensinger from the University of Essex 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.”

The next step, he added, will be to actually build the quantum computer.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic