U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology researcher David Wineland and French researcher Serge Haroche recently were honored with Nobel prizes for their work in quantum computing. Their research is part of an international race to develop quantum computers, as Russia and China work to harness the new technology's potential.
Wineland notes that part of the power of quantum computers is that they would have more unique combinations of bits at their disposal than there are "elementary particles in the universe." He says quantum computers could be used to crack extremely complex codes, and Wineland is competing with other researchers from around the world in the race for a new way to make these calculations. He notes the key to quantum computing is that in certain conditions quantum particles can be in two places at the same time, which means they can exhibit different states of energy.
Wineland suspends beryllium ions in electric fields generated by microscopic electrodes housed inside metallic, thermos-like vacuum tubes, and then he sends ultraviolet lasers through quartz windows to read the ions' quantum energy states. Each ion scatters light in the 1 state and stays dark in the 0 state, allowing researchers to conduct basic calculations.
From Federal Times
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