A quantum computer works with more than zero and one

The quantum computer in Innsbruck stores information in individual trapped calcium atoms, each with eight states, of which the scientists used up to seven for computing. Credit: Yoni Innsbruck / Harald Rich

We all learn from early on that computers work with zeros and ones, also known as binary information. This approach has been so successful that computers now power everything from coffee machines to self-driving cars and it’s hard to imagine a life without it.

Building on this success, today’s quantum computers are also designed with binary information processing in mind. “The basic building blocks of quantum computers are more than just zeros and ones,” explains Martin Ringbauer, an experimental physicist from Innsbruck, Austria. “Restricting them to binary systems prevents these devices from living up to their true potential.”

The team, led by Thomas Munz in the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck, has now succeeded in developing a quantum computer that can perform random calculations using so-called quantum numbers (qudits), thus unlocking more computational power with fewer quantum particles. Their study was published in Nature Physics.

Different quantum systems

Although storing information with zeros and ones is not the most efficient way to perform arithmetic operations, it is the simplest. Simplicity also often means reliability and robustness, so binary information has become the undisputed standard for classic computers.

In the quantum world, the situation is completely different. In the quantum computer in Innsbruck, for example, information is stored in individual trapped calcium atoms. Each of these atoms naturally contains eight different states, only two of which are used to store information. In fact, nearly all quantum computers in existence have access to more quantum states than they use in calculations.

A quantum computer works with more than zero and one

Quantum physicist Martin Ringbauer in his lab. Credit: Yoni Innsbruck

A natural approach to hardware and software

Physicists from Innsbruck have now developed a quantum computer that can harness the full potential of these atoms, by computing with codes. Unlike the classic case, using more cases does not make the computer less reliable. “Quantum systems naturally have more than only two states, and we have shown that we can control all of them equally,” says Thomas Mons.

On the flip side, many tasks that require quantum computers, such as problems in physics, chemistry, or materials science, are also naturally expressed in qudit. Rewriting them often makes qubits too complex for today’s quantum computers. Martin Ringbauer explains: “Working with more than one and zero is very natural, not only for a quantum computer but also for its applications, allowing us to unleash the true potential of quantum systems.”

Error-free quantum computing becomes a reality

more information:
Martin Ringbauer, a universal codete quantum processor with trapped ions, Nature Physics (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41567-022-01658-0. www.nature.com/articles/s41567-022-01658-0

Presented by the University of Innsbruck

the quote: Quantum computer running more than zero and one (2022, July 21) Retrieved on July 21, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-quantum.html

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