A new experiment out of the University of Southern California might have solved one of the toughest problems in quantum computing, and it did so by building a computer inside a diamond...
This new computer isnít going to be doing your taxes any time soon, but it shows the viability of solid-state quantum computers to lessen decoherence. Put simply, decoherence is a loss of observable information, which is the last thing you want in a computer. Digital computers are incredibly coherent ó if you try to add 1 and 1, you will always get 2 ó but due to decoherence, a quantum computer could return almost any result. In past liquid and gas-based systems, researchers often had to deal with decoherence as a consequence of using small, efficient particles.
The diamond computer developed at USC makes use of the impurities in the crystalline structure to make up its two quantum bits, or qubits. The CPUs youíve always used have transistors that can represent data as a 0 or a 1. A qubit can represent a 0 and a 1 at the same time. This is thanks to the quantum property of superposition, and itís the property that may one day make quantum computers insanely fast.
Researchers used a neutron as one qubit, and an electron as the other. This mismatched pair was used in order to accurately measure the level of decoherence. An electron, being smaller, is capable of faster calculations, but suffers more from decoherence. Neutrons are slower, but much more stable. In the experiment, scientists found that a series of microwave pulses hitting the diamond computer ďresetĒ the particles and reduced data loss through decoherence.
At this point, there is no practical application for a simple quantum computer, and no real world test to show it working. The team at USC was able to prove that they had indeed built a solid-state quantum computer by supplying it with a simple data set, and applying Groverís algorithm, which is a mathematical proof demonstrating the potential power of quantum computers. Groverís algorithm states that a quantum computer will be able to find a specified entry in an unsorted list on the first try, every time.
A human trying to do this would have to go down the list checking each entry to see if it was the right one. Going this route, you would on average check half the list before finding the right entry. This diamond-encrusted computer was able to find the correct choice on the first try 95% of the time, thus proving that the researchers successfully built a functional quantum computer.
Still, it's a big step towards the sort of computers we'll be using in the future