Breakthrough in quantum computing smashes previous records

An international team of scientists were able to store information in a quantum computing system for 39 minutes - a massive leap forward from the previous record of 25 seconds

Scientists have achieved an “exciting breakthrough” in quantum computing, creating a solid state memory system made from silicon that was operational at room temperature for 39 minutes.

This achievement breaks one of the major barriers to building quantum computers: the need to run the systems at incredibly cold temperatures. The previous record for storing information at room temperature in a quantum computer was just 25 seconds.

“This opens up the possibility of truly long-term coherent information storage at room temperature,” said Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University in Canada, head of the international team that conducted the research.

The results of the experiment were detailed in the journal Science.

Whereas current computers store information as “bits” of data - strings of individuals 1s or 0s - quantum computers uses “qubits” which can be both 1s and 0s simultaneously.

This is thanks to a property of quantum mechanics known “superposition” which means that quantum computers will be able to use a single piece of hardware to perform different calculations at the same time.

The difficulty with these systems is their instability, with scientists using cold temperatures (around -269C, just a few degrees above absolute zero, the coldest temperature possible) to combat the qubits’ natural tendency to decay.

Even for this most recent breakthrough, scientists still to begin by lowering the temperature of around 10 billion phosphorous ions (the nuclei of which were embedded in pure silicon to provide the medium for the qubits) to just above absolute zero.

The temperature of this system was then raised to room temperature (25C) where the data remained intact for 39 minutes.

This may not sound like a long time, but as a single operation on a quantum computer takes just one-hundred-thousandth of a second, this means that theoretically over 20 million operations could be performed before the qubits data decayed by one per cent.

“Having such robust, as well as long-lived, qubits could prove very helpful for anyone trying to build a quantum computer,” said of Oxford University's Stephanie Simmons, a member of the Department of Materials and an author of the paper.

A close-up of a quantum computing chip used by a D Wave computer (a quantum computer unconnected to these recent achievements).

Many barriers remain

However, the scientists involved in the study also stressed the many difficulties ahead for quantum computing.

For example, although the scientists in this experiment managed to retrieve the data stored on the system, they still had to return the system to freezing temperatures to do so – and the original process that encoded the information wasn’t perfect, destroying 63 per cent of the data.

Another major hurdle is the ability to encode different types of data. For this experiment the qubits involved all stored just 1s or 0s. For quantum computers to work like conventional computers they will have to store a diverse mixture of 1s and 0s and switch between states.

The difference is like that between a flat surface painted with a single colour, and a 3D hologram showing a high definition movie.

Despite this, scientists are still celebrating this experiment as an "exciting breakthrough".

"This result represents an important step towards realising quantum devices," David Awschalom, a professor in Spintronics and Quantum Information, at the University of Chicago told the BBC.

Click here to find out more about quantum computers.

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London