To upgrade quantum computers, researchers look to materials science
For decades, theoretical physicists and computer scientists have been compiling evidence that quantum computers will eventually leave our current top-of-the-line supercomputers in the dust…. Quantum computers have been limited to simple problems because of their hardware. The basic elements of quantum circuits, called qubits (for quantum bits), are still highly error prone. Truly useful quantum computers will probably need millions of robust qubits, a far cry from the tens of qubits operating in today’s machines. And if the ones we have today are misfiring, there’s no hope of a million-qubit system calculating anything with certainty. So scientists and engineers like Hong are shouldering the responsibility of building a better qubit.
“A qubit uses quantum mechanical phenomena to do things with information you can’t otherwise do,” says Brad Blakestad, a program manager for quantum computing at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).