Scientists create quantum computer that breaks free of binary system

Andrew Griffin
Monday 25 July 2022 09:08 BST
The incredible physics behind quantum computing
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Scientists have made a quantum computer that breaks free from the binary system.

Computers as we know them today rely on binary information: they operate in ones and zeroes, storing more complex information in “bits” that are either off or on. That seemingly simple system is at the heart of every computer we use.

Quantum computers have taken on that same system. They use qubits, which replicate the bits of a classical computer but using quantum technology.

But they are built with more than just those ones and zeroes. Quantum computers are not necessarily restricted to binary, and scientists hope that breaking them are from that system can add extra complexity without using more quantum particles.

Now scientists say they have succeeded in building a quantum computer that works in that way. It can do calculations not with qubits but instead with qudits – quantum digits that could allow for vastly more computing power.

Most quantum computers have the access to more quantum states than are actually used when they are doing computation. In the new study, scientists used a computer at the University of Innsbruck that stores information in trapped calcium atoms that can exist in eight different states, for instance – but of which generally only two are used.

Researchers were able to show that they could make use of that full potential of the computer, and do so in a way that does not make the computer less reliable, as it does with a traditional computer.

What’s more, scientists typically want to use quantum computers to work on problems that are already naturally expressed in audits. “Working with more than zeros and ones is very natural, not only for the quantum computer but also for its applications, allowing us to unlock the true potential of quantum systems”, said Martin Ringbauer, an experimental physicist and member of the team from Innsbruck.

The work is reported in a new paper, ‘A universal qudit quantum processor with trapped ions’, published in Nature Physics today.

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