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Proving the Need For Quantum Computers


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fiber optics

Credit: ABC Science

University of Queensland researchers are searching for problems that prove quantum computers are really necessary. "Quantum computers generate so much excitement because they allow one to solve problems that you couldn't do efficiently using a conventional computer," says Queensland's Matthew Broome. The researchers aim to prove the need for quantum computers by finding a problem that can be mathematically proven to be unsolvable by classical computers. 

One candidate for the proof is the boson sampling problem, which involves sending a number of single photons through a complex photonic network, and working out which outputs the photons exit. The researchers calculate that if 20 to 30 photons were put into the system, a classical supercomputer would have difficulty solving the problem. If an experimental proof verified this theory then the boson sampling problem could be used to prove the need for a quantum computer. 

The researchers built a boson sampling computer especially designed to solve the problem. They then sent three photons through six fiber-optic inputs to the computer, a system designed to be modeled and solved on a classical computer. Both the classical computer and boson sampling computer produced the same result; trying to solve the problem at a larger scale is the next step.

From ABC Science    
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