Category: quantum computers

A New $15 Billion Project Is Set to Utterly Transform Our World

Going All In: A $15 Billion Project

To advance research and development on artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the Internet of Things, Alibaba is dedicating $15 billion in funding over the next three years to create the next generation of such technology.

As reported by Bloomberg, the company shared its plans in an emailed statement, shortly after Chief Technical Officer Jeff Zhang made the announcement at the company’s Computing Conference 2017 in Hangzhou, China. This is the beginning of its global research program, now known as Alibaba DAMO Academy — “DAMO” an acronym for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook.

As part of the program, Alibaba intends to build seven new R&D labs across the U.S., Russia, China, Israel, and Singapore. Over 100 scientists worldwide who specialize in different aspects of AI, quantum computing, and the IoT will also be hired.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Alibaba Chief Technical Officer Jeff Zhang said the new labs will go a long way to “help solve issues that Alibaba is currently facing across its business lines. It will also be at the forefront of developing next-generation technology.”

More Than Labs and Scientists

Alongside new labs, Alibaba’s multi-billion dollar investment will also go towards funding various collaborations with universities, with the University of California at Berkeley already on board. Additionally, the company has tapped a number of professors from the likes of Princeton and Harvard to sit on an advisory board.

Privacy and the Internet of Things
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Alibaba’s increased focus on AI and quantum computing is a significant one, with both expected to dramatically change the world. The company already has a “smart warehouse” run by 60 robots, which saw an productivity increase 300 percent. That percentage can only rise if the company’s program is a success, though it does raise some concerns about automation and its impact on jobs.

Fortunately, according to CNBC, the company has a “commitment to serve 2 billion customers and create 100 million jobs in 20 years.” We’ll have to wait and see what Alibaba comes up with in the coming years, but it’s a clear sign it’s prepared to see this through, and has the resources necessary to move the world forward.

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A New Computer Chip Can Store Quantum Information in the Form of Light

Saving Data in Light

The age of quantum computers is drawing ever more near, and now, a team of researchers led by engineers at Caltech have developed a computer chip that puts us one step closer to that new era in computing.

Traditional and quantum computers both store data as binary code. However, while traditional computers store information in bits as either a 1 or 0, quantum computers store data in qubits as either a 1, a 0, or both simultaneously.

Because protons lack charge and mass, they are an exceptionally secure and efficient medium for quantum data storage, but figuring out how to use single protons for quantum data storage and transmission has proven difficult. Doing so on-chip at the nanoscale had seemed impossible, but the Caltech researchers have figured it out.

An artist's representation of Caltech's quantum memory chip. Image Credit: Ella Maru Studio
An artist’s representation of Caltech’s quantum memory chip. Image Credit: Ella Maru Studio

Their chip is the world’s smallest example of an optical quantum memory device. It was made by creating memory modules measuring 700 nanometers wide by 15 microns long — roughly the same size as red blood cells — out of optical cavities made from crystals doped with rare-earth ions. These ions allowed each module to more effectively absorb the individual photon pumped into it via a laser.

A New Era

During initial testing, the chips were able to store data for 75 nanoseconds before release, with only a 3 percent failure rate. However, in order to be a viable component in quantum networking, the chips will need to be able to retain the information for one millisecond. Fortunately, meeting this requirement is one of the team’s goals as they move forward. They also plan to work out the best way to incorporate their chips into complex quantum circuits.

Though already looking ahead to what’s next, the team is pleased with everything they’ve accomplished so far.

“Such a device is an essential component for the future development of optical quantum networks that could be used to transmit quantum information,” Andrei Faraon, assistant professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech and corresponding author of the study, explained in a Caltech news release.

“This technology not only leads to extreme miniaturization of quantum memory devices, it also enables better control of the interactions between individual photons and atoms,” added Caltech postdoctoral scholar Tian Zhong, lead author of the study.

Caltech isn’t the only organization with researchers working on quantum technology.

MIT recently proposed a new way to mass produce qubits, while researchers at EPFL’s Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements are looking into using graphene to construct a quantum capacitor that can create qubits that are more stable. Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia have designed an entirely new kind of qubit altogether.

These and other recent developments in the world of quantum computing are exciting, and many will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping our future with quantum computers. Some predict we may be using these powerful devices to cure diseases and combat cyber hacking as soon as next year.

That said, the widespread adoption of quantum computers is still far off. Some experts have predicted the devices won’t be consumer-ready for another 20 years or so, and once they do arrive, ensuring they are used for creation and not destruction will present its own set of challenges.

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World’s Leading Physicist Says Quantum Computers Are “Tools of Destruction, Not Creation”

Weapon of Mass Disruption

Quantum Computers are heralded as the next step in the evolution of data processing. The future of this technology promises us a tool that can outperform any conventional system, handling more data and at faster speeds than even the most powerful of today’s supercomputers.

However, at the present juncture, much of the science dedicated to this field is still focused on the technology’s ultimate utilization. We know that quantum computers could manage data at a rate that is remarkable, but exactly what kind of data processing will they be good for?

This uncertainty raises some interesting questions about the potential impact of such a theoretically powerful tool.

No encryption existing today would be able to hide from the processing power of a functioning quantum computer.

Last month, some of the leading names in quantum technologies gathered at the semi-annual International Conference on Quantum Technologies in Moscow. Futurism was in attendance and was able to sit and talk with some of these scientists about how their work is moving us closer to practical quantum computers, and what impact such developments will have on society.

One of the most interesting topics of discussion was initiated by Alexander Lvovsky, Quantum Optics group leader at the Russian Quantum Center and Professor of Physics at the University of Calgary in Canada. Speaking at a dinner engagement, Lvovsky stated that quantum computers are a tool of destruction, not creation.

What is it about quantum computers that would incite such a claim? In the end, it comes down to one thing, which happens to be one of the most talked about potential applications for the technology: Breaking modern cryptography.

With Great Power…

Today, all sensitive digital information sent over the internet is encrypted in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved. Already, we have seen instances where hackers were able to seize this information by breaking the encryption. According to Lvovsky, the advent of the quantum computer will only make that process easier and faster.

In fact, he asserts that no encryption existing today would be able to hide from the processing power of a functioning quantum computer. Medical records, financial information, even the secrets of governments and military organizations would be free for the taking—meaning that the entire world order could be threatened by this technology.

The consensus between other experts is, essentially, that Lvovsky isn’t wrong. “In a sense, he’s right,” Wenjamin Rosenfeld, a physics professor at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, stated in an interview. He continued, “taking a quantum computer as a computer, there’s basically not much you can do with this at the moment;” however, he went on to explain that this may soon be changing.

To break this down, there are only two quantum algorithms at the moment, one to allow a quantum computer to search a database, and the other, Shor’s algorithm, which can be used by a quantum computer to break encryption.

Notably, during the conference, Mikhail Lukin, a co-founder of the Russian Quantum Center and head of the Lukin Group of the Quantum Optics Laboratory at Harvard University, announced that he had successfully built and tested a 51-qubit quantum computer…and he’s going to use that computer to launch Shor’s algorithm.

Vladimir Shalaev, who sits on the International Advisory Board of the Russian Quantum Center and is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University, takes a more nuanced approach to this question, saying it is neither a tool of destruction nor creation—it is both: “I would disagree with him. I think I would say that any new breakthrough breeds both evil and good things.”

Quantum computers may not be capable of the physical destruction of a nuclear bomb, but their potential application is the digital equivalent.

He evoked the development of laser technology as an example, saying, “Lasers changed our lives with communications, surgery, their use in machinery, but they are also used in missiles to destroy buildings. But I think this is life. Nothing comes with only good, there is always bad as well. So I don’t think it is just a destructive technology, it could also be a constructive one.”

There is a great deal of truth to Shalaev’s assessment. Nuclear technology was primarily developed as a destructive tool. After the war, many more positive applications were found, impacting energy, medicine, and agriculture, among many other fields. Quantum computers may not be capable of the physical destruction of a nuclear bomb, but their potential application in relation to encryption is the digital equivalent, making this topic worthy of reflection in these early stages.

What Good May Come?

So, if quantum computers do have such dangerous potential, why are we pursuing them? As Lukin expounds, there are other potential applications outside of encryption breaking, applications that many experts are excited about.

For example, Lukin sees enormous potential in quantum sensors. “It has the potential to change the field of medical diagnostics, where some of the tasks which require huge labs can be performed on the scale of an iPhone. Imagine the implications for third world countries in parts of the world like Africa. It can really allow to diagnose and treat patients. I think there’s actually a huge impact on society,” he explained.

Also, the processing power of quantum computers could push research in artificial intelligence (AI) forward by leaps and bounds. Indeed, it could assist this field to such a degree that AI could be a part of the answer to the problem proposed by Lvovsky. To that end, Lukins asserts, “I’m fairly convinced that, before quantum computers start breaking encryption, we will have new classical encryption, we will have new schemes based on quantum computers, based on quantum cryptography, which will be operational.”

Much like lasers or nuclear weapons, the scientists involved in creating quantum computers are unable to predict the total utility of this technology. There very well could be a host of world changing applications for quantum computers. Still, even with just considering the encryption busting potential of the technology, we must remain cognizant of the power we are unleashing.

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When Will Quantum Computers Be Consumer Products?

Technological Revolution

Quantum computers are making an entrance, and it’s a dramatic one. Even in its infancy, the technology is outperforming the conventional competition and is expected to make the field of cryptography as we know it obsolete. Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize several sectors, including the financial and medical industries.

Meet The Most Powerful Computers in the World
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Quantum computers can processes a greater number of calculations because they rely on quantum bits (“qubits”), which can be ones and zeroes simultaneously, unlike classical “bits” that must be either a one or a zero. The company D-Wave is releasing a version of a quantum computer this year, but it’s not a fully formed embodiment of this technology. So we asked our readers when we should expect to see quantum computers available as consumer products?

Almost 80 percent of respondents believed we will be able to buy our own quantum computer before 2050, and the decade that received the most votes — about 34 percent — was the 2030s. Respondent Solomon Duffin explained why his prediction, the 2040s, was slightly more pessimistic than those of the majority.

In the 2020s, we will have quantum computers that are significantly better than super computers today, but they most likely won’t be in mass use by governments and companies until the 2030s. Eventually toward the end of the 2030s and early 2040s they’ll shrink down to a size and cost viable for consumer use. Before that point even with the exponential growth of technology I don’t think that it would be cost efficient enough for the average consumer to replace regular computing with quantum computing.

Quantum computers are indeed currently out of the price range of the average consumer, and will likely stay that way for a few years at least. The $15 million price tag for the D-Wave 2000Q has a long way to drop before it makes it to a Black Friday sale.

What The Experts Have to Say

But the technology is rapidly advancing, and experts are optimistic that we will soon see a bonafide, functioning quantum computer in all of its glory. In fact, an international team of researchers wrote in a study published in Physical Review, “Recent improvements in the control of quantum systems make it seem feasible to finally build a quantum computer within a decade.”

Andrew Dzurak, Professor in Nanoelectronics at University of New South Wales, said in an interview with CIO that he hopes quantum computers will be able to advance scientific research, for example, by simulating what potential drugs would do in the human body. However, Dzurak said he expects it will take 20 years for quantum computers to be useful enough for that kind of application.

“I think that within ten years, there will be demonstrations of modelling of certain chemicals and drugs that couldn’t be done today but I don’t think there will be a convenient, routine [system] that [people] can use,” Dzurak said in the interview. “To move to that stage will take another decade further beyond that.”

Dzurak also expressed his doubts that quantum computers will be very useful to the average consumer since they can get most of what they want using conventional computers. But D-Wave international president Bo Ewald thinks that’s just because we haven’t imagined what we could do with the technology yet. This is why D-Wave has released a new software tool to help developers make programs for the company’s computers.

“D-Wave is driving the hardware forward,” Ewald said in an interview with Wired. “But we need more smart people thinking about applications, and another set thinking about software tools.”

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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A New Breakthrough in Quantum Computing is Set to Transform Our World

Emerging Leaders

Quantum computers are, unarguably, the next great evolutionary step in the development of computing tech. Their successful creation will be a paradigm shifting achievement—one that will alter the future of humanity and revolutionize operations across a broad spectrum of applications.

And in case you missed it, we just took a massive leap forward into this new realm.

Last week, in a stunning reveal at the 2017 International Conference on Quantum Technologies, held in Moscow, Russia, the co-founder of the Russian Quantum Center and head of the Lukin Group of the Quantum Optics Laboratory at Harvard University, Mikhail Lukin, announced that his team had successfully built a 51-qubit quantum computer.

Alan Turing: The Father of Computer Science [Infographic]
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A press release was distributed to conference attendants shortly after the announcement stating that Lukin’s team “created and successfully tested a programmable 51-qubit quantum computer, thus becoming the leader among those engaged in the quantum race.”

The announcement was made a few hours before the main event of the conference, a public talk by John Martinis, the man in charge of building Google’s 49-qubit quantum computer (the timing of Lukin’s reveal was, no doubt, very intentional).

A Brewing Race

Futurism was fortunate enough to be present at the conference in Moscow at the moment of this historic announcement and spoke with Professor Lukin about this achievement. Notably, his group was one of two teams that created the first ever time crystals back at the start of this year. Before diving into his exciting announcement, we asked a little about his research in that area and how it applies to quantum computing.

Basically, the unique thing that happens with these time crystals is that they can be a stable state of matter. These states, in principle, can hold quantum coherence for a long time. So basically, it means you can have super-positions of states. That’s kind of the basic ingredient for all this quantum science and technology.

So on one hand, we can think about using it as memory for a quantum computer—in principle it’s true, but as for practical use…it’s not so clear.

To that end, there is still much uncertainty regarding how (and with what materials) quantum computers can and should be made. However, many entities are racing to be the first to create a working quantum computer, so innovation is moving at an increasingly accelerated rate.

This is a very good thing.

As we approach the physical limits of Moore’s Law, the need for increasingly faster and more efficient means of information processing isn’t going to end—or even slow. To break this down a bit, the physical limit of Moore’s Law exists as the size of transistors heads into the quantum realm. We can no longer rely on the laws of the standard model of physics at this scale. As such, developing technology that does operate at the quantum scale not merely allows for the linear progression of computing power, it will launch exponential shifts in power and capability.

Understanding Quantum Computers

The capabilities of this technology are ultimately based on the number of qubits in the system. Each qubit that is added does not simply multiply the processing capability by a single bit, but exponentially in creases it.

For example, 4 classical bits can be in one of 2positions, allowing for 16 possibilities but only one at a time. However, four qubits in superposition (being every possible combination of 0 and 1 at the same time) can be in all 16 states at once, and that number grows exponentially with every qubit added.

This means that a 20-qubit system can store 1,000,000 values simultaneously.

It is unclear the number of qubits required to make an effective quantum computer but Lukin, right now, stands at the forefront in the field. He notes that finding the answer all comes down to crunching the numbers: “Basically, the only way we are able to find out is by building machines big enough that we can actually really run these algorithms.”

To that end, in his presentation, Lukin mentioned that the team is planning on using their technology to launch the famous Shor’s quantum algorithm. Equipped with an operational quantum computer, this algorithm can destroy modern encryption as we know it. This leaves many experts with the view that quantum computers could act as tools of mass disruption, if not destruction.

However, even the scientists who are working on developing this technology cannot identify all of the innumerable ways that quantum computing will transform our world.

A New War Brewing

During the Cold War, we saw an intense boost in scientific advancements, especially in the field of rocketry and space-based research. The Space Race launched with the United States and Russia moving the required science and technology forward at breakneck speeds. Of course, the innovators of this era did not fully realize all the befits that this space race would bring humanity (memory foam, cochlear implants, artificial limbs, fire-resistant reinforcements, and on and on).

Now, a new contest for technological supremacy is brewing, and while the United States and Russia are certainly at play, China and even private enterprise have also joined the fray.

Much like the scientific community’s uncertainty about the complete scope of space exploration’s potential, physicists working on quantum computers are quick to say that, while they have some inclinations about what the first quantum computers will be able to do, they are not sure what possibilities these immensely powerful machines will be capable of. But one thing is certian: The future is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen.

This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.

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Researchers Just Achieved One of the Major Requirements for Quantum Computing

Ultracold Molecules

Qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers, are, for the most part, still a work in progress. Researchers have many different theories as to how they can be created, and they’ve attempted to do so using various kinds of molecules, individual neutral atoms, ions held in ion traps, and superconducting materials — all with varying degrees of success.

Now, a team from the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms (CUA) has just brought the world one step closer to quantum computing by creating qubits that are able to retain the information they store hundreds of times longer than anyone has previously achieved.

The CUA team’s research utilizes very simple two-atom molecules made of potassium and sodium, which were cooled to temperatures just a few ten-millionths of a degree above absolute zero. The team was able to perfectly control the molecules, achieving the lowest possible state of rotation, vibration, and nuclear spin alignment. This control, combined with the chemical stability of the molecules, helped make a second-long period of coherence possible.

“We have strong hopes that we can do one so-called gate — that’s an operation between two of these qubits, like addition, subtraction, or that sort of equivalent — in a fraction of a millisecond,” MIT professor of physics Martin Zwierlein said in an MIT News brief. “If you look at the ratio, you could hope to do 10,000 to 100,000 gate operations in the time that we have the coherence in the sample. That has been stated as one of the requirements for a quantum computer, to have that sort of ratio of gate operations to coherence times.”

“The most amazing thing is that [these] molecules are a system which may allow realizing both storage and processing of quantum information, using the very same physical system,” added Columbia University assistant professor Sebastian Will. “That is actually a pretty rare feature that is not typical at all among the qubit systems that are mostly considered today.”

Massive Processing Power

If the team is right, an array of 1,000 of these molecules could carry out calculations so complex, no computer existing today could verify them. In theory, such a computer could factor massive numbers very rapidly, the difficulty of which provides the foundation for the encryption systems that protect today’s financial transactions.

A Brief History Of Atomic Theory [Infographic]
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The researchers emphasize that their discovery is an early step on the path to quantum systems and that creating actual quantum computers using this technology could take a decade or more of development. However, they’re already looking ahead to the next milestones in the process.

“The next great goal will be to ‘talk’ to individual molecules. Then we are really talking quantum information,” Will said in the brief. “If we can trap one molecule, we can trap two. And then we can think about implementing a ‘quantum gate operation’ — an elementary calculation — between two molecular qubits that sit next to each other.”

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Scientists May Have Discovered a Sweet Way to Mass Produce Graphene

A New Graphene Production Method

Nanotechnologists from Rice University and China’s Tianjin University have come up with a way to make centimeter-sized objects of atomically thin graphene that’s pretty sweet. The method is simple, can be performed at room temperature, and only requires sugar and nickel in a process called “3D laser printing.” Due to the printing method, the scientists were able to control the shapes to the level of the pore and make them 99 percent air — retaining graphene’s lightness.

This is a landmark for the “miracle material”  — composed of a single atomic layer of hexagonally linked carbon — which has paradigm-shifting potential due to its high strength (200 times stronger than steel) and conductivity.

“3D laser printing” differs from the commercially available 3D printing. Instead of sculpting using melted plastic pressed through the end of a thin needle, this process melts or “sinters” powders with a laser. Then, a new powder is applied to the cooled and solid layer beneath it, ultimately forming an object layer by layer.

Image Credit: Tour Group/Rice University
Image Credit: Tour Group/Rice University

After they realized that applying this form of printing to nickel and sugar produced graphene when the mixture cooled, the team optimized the time and laser power required to produce the material. The researchers recently published their results in the journal ACS Nano.

Co-lead author of the study Junwei Sha, a postdoctoral researcher at Tianjin University, said in an interview for a Rice press release that this is also a customizable process: “We should also be able to use this process to produce specific types of graphene foam like 3D printed rebar graphene (graphene reinforced with carbon nanotubes) as well as both nitrogen-and sulfur-doped graphene foam by changing the precursor powders.”

The Potential of Graphene

Graphene has been one of the most discussed materials of the decade, with possible applications in diverse fields ranging from increasing upload rates, to being used in quantum computers, to cleaning seawater, to bionic implants.

However, its progress has been impeded by our inability to mass-produce it — a problem which this process could solve. Rice chemist James Tour stated in the press release, “We have shown how to make 3D graphene foams from non-graphene starting materials, and the method lends itself to being scaled to graphene foams for additive manufacturing applications.”

Graphene: The Miracle Material of the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]
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There have been been other promising methods suggested for the mass production of graphene, including the University of Kansas’ use of detonating carbon-containing materials, and Brookhaven National’s Laboratory’s idea to “piggyback” it on industrial-grade glass.

Currently, though, we have a wonder material that could help the world advance into a new scientific era, but no existing manufacturing process. Let’s hope one of the methods scales up successfully so we can open the door and step into an exciting future.

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Scientists May Have Found a Way to Combat Quantum Computer Blockchain Hacking

Russia’s Solution to Quantum Hacking

A serious concern in the computing industry is that when true quantum computers are produced, the principles of encryption will break down due to the dizzyingly superior processing power.

Although blockchain is a far more secure method of transaction than our current financial system, even it will become vulnerable to a brute force attack by a quantum computer. Andersen Cheng, co-founder of U.K. cybersecurity firm Post Quantum, told Newsweek, “Bitcoin will expire the very day the first quantum computer appears.”

A team lead by Evgeny Kiktenko at the Russian Quantum Center in Moscow, though, may have found a way to protect blockchains by fighting fire with fire using quantum mechanics. They are designing a quantum-secured blockchain where each block, hypothetically, is signed by a quantum key rather than a digital one.

They propose that transmitting and encrypting information using quantum particles such as photons, which cannot be copied or meddled with without the particles being destroyed, ensures the blockchain’s safety. The principle is based on Zero-knowledge proofs which allow you to validate information without sharing it.

Protection in a Quantum World

In recent months Russia has become increasingly interested in blockchain. The central bank is composing new laws focused on cryptocurrencies and is interested in developing one of its own. This research marks a step forward in these efforts because it concerns the protection of such systems.

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If the quantum-secured blockchain proves successful it would be hugely beneficial to the rest of the world as well. Blockchain has the potential to do a lot of good for the world by streamlining the transaction system, making it more secure, and ensuring transparency like never before. Countries such as Senegal have developed currencies that are entirely digital, Japan is accepting bitcoin (which uses blockchain) as legal tender in 260,000 stores this summer, and Ukraine is considering using it to combat corruption.

If the advent of quantum computing could be the apocalypse for blockchain, it is therefore crucially important that we begin thinking about how to protect these system before entire countries and currencies could be subject to hacks from the abusers of quantum computers.

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MIT Just Unveiled A Technique to Mass Produce Quantum Computers

Commercial Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is, if you are not already familiar, simply put, a type of computation that uses qubits to encode data instead of the traditional bit (1s and 0s). In short, it allows for the superposition of states, which is where data can be in more than one state at a given time.

So, while traditional computing is limited to information belonging to only one or another state, quantum computing widens those limitations. As a result, more information can be encoded into a much smaller type of bit, allowing for much larger computing capacity. And, while it is still in relatively early development, many believe that quantum computing will be the basis of future technologies, advancing our computational speed beyond what we can currently imagine.

It was extremely exciting then when researchers from MIT, Harvard University, and Sandia National Laboratories unveiled a simpler way of using atomic-scale defects in diamond materials to build quantum computers in a way that could possibly allow them to be mass produced.

For this process, defects are they key. They are precisely and perfectly placed to function as qubits and hold information. Previous processes were difficult, complex, and not precise enough. This new method creates targeted defects in a much simpler manner. Experimentally, defects created were, on average, at or under 50 nanometers of the ideal locations.

The significance of this cannot be overstated. “The dream scenario in quantum information processing is to make an optical circuit to shuttle photonic qubits and then position a quantum memory wherever you need it,” says Dirk Englund, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, in an interview with MIT. “We’re almost there with this. These emitters are almost perfect.”

Image Credit: carmule / pixabayImage Credit: carmule / Pixabay

A Quantum Future

While the reality of quantum computers, let alone mass produced quantum computers, is still a bit of a ways off, this research is promising. One of the main remaining hurdles is how these computers will read the qubits. But these diamond defects aim to solve that problem because they naturally emit light, and since the light particles emitted can retain superposition, they could help to transmit information.

The research goes on to detail how the completion of these diamond materials better allowed for the amplification of the qubit information. By the end, the researchers found that the light emitted was approximately 80-90 percent as bright as possible.

If this work eventually leads to the full creation of a quantum computer, life as we know it would change irrevocably. From completely upending modern encryption methods to allowing us to solve previously “unsolvable” problems, our technology and infrastructure would never be the same.  Moreover, the limitations that currently exist in how we store and transmit information would shatter, opening new opportunities for—as yet—unimaginable exploration.

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AI and Quantum Computers Are Our Best Weapons Against Cyber Criminals

Weapons of Cyber Warfare

Cyber security has become a key issue in our national and international discussions. No longer do cyber attacks concern only email companies and individuals who are unwilling to update their tech. Now, cyber crime has had a major impact on both U.S. mainstream political parties, and almost any organization — even hospitals — should have some concern about the possibility of an attack through a computer network.

How the US Can Fight Russian Cyberattacks?
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In their struggle to fight cyber crime, major companies like IBM are turning to two of the world’s most powerful technologies — artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

IBM’s AI, Watson, helps human analysts sift through the 200,000 or so “security events” the company has to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It helps determine which events don’t require special attention, such as instances when an employee forgets their password, and which should receive more scrutiny.

“Before artificial intelligence, we’d have to assume that a lot of the data — say 90 percent — is fine. We only would have bandwidth to analyze this 10 percent,” Daniel Driver from Chemring Technology Solutions, a provider of electric warfare, said in an interview with the Financial Times. “The AI mimics what an analyst would do, how they look at data…It’s doing a huge amount of legwork upfront, which means we can focus our analysts’ time.”

Time for Faster Fighters

Watson is about 60 times faster that its human counterparts, and speed is key for defending against cyber attacks. But even Watson’s impressive rates pale in comparison to those that can be attained with quantum computers.

“The analogy we like to use is that of a needle in a haystack,” Driver said in the interview. “A machine can be specially made to look for a needle in a haystack, but it still has to look under every piece of hay. Quantum computing means, I’m going to look under every piece of hay simultaneously and find the needle immediately.”

While these technologies are not silver bullets against cyber attacks, they are becoming vital tools in the cyber security industry, which is projected to grow from $74 billion last year to $100 billion in 2020. Part of this growth may be attributed to society’s increasing reliance on the Internet of Things (IoT). As everything from light bulbs to our jackets become digitally accessible, every person should be more concerned about cyber security.

As we continue to see advancements in both AI and quantum computing technologies, more businesses and households will have access to these protective tools. AIs are already finding their places in different sectors of our society — including healthcare. Perhaps in addition to diagnosing medical images, AIs can also protect hospitals from future cyber attacks.

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Graphene Just Brought Us One Step Closer to Practical Quantum Computers

Wonder Material Meets Supercomputer

Right now, graphene and quantum computers both stand out as symbols of the next steps in human technological innovation. Each represents a paradigm shift both in their respective originating fields (materials and computing) as well as in the fields to which they are applied. But perhaps the most exciting developments for these two technologies will come as they combined.

Graphene is often referred to as “the wonder material” since it holds so much promise to change the world in some certainly unimaginable ways. On the other hand, quantum computers are the next step in computing as we rapidly approach the physical limits of current computing technology. Researchers are discovering that graphene may help us take this next step.

Researchers at EPFL’s Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements have been working to build a quantum capacitor that can create stable qubits (the units of information storage in quantum computers) that are also resistant to common electromagnetic interference. Such a capacitor is easier to produce using a two dimensional material — such as graphene. Their research was published in 2D Materials and Applications.

A Perfect Union

Quantum computers work by taking advantage of special rules reserved for sub-atomic particles in order to perform the most complex tasks at currently impossible speeds. While they aren’t likely to replace our home computers as their capabilities are well beyond our daily needs, what they are capable of will revolutionize what’s possible for high-tech applications such as running quantum simulations which can unlock previously impossible to access information.

Graphene: The Miracle Material of the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Taking advantage of graphene’s special properties in the designs of quantum capacitors will move us closer to figuring out how to create a practical quantum computer. And this is just one example of graphene’s many uses. From the understatedly important capability to turn sea water into drinking water, to the ability to become zero-resistance superconductors, graphene has the potential to lead us into a new era of science.

We’re likely far from a functioning practical quantum computer, but watching the beginnings of what might be one of the most significant human technological achievements in our age is quite exciting. We’re standing on the precipice of the next step in our tech evolution.

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IBM Aims to Build the First Commercial Quantum Computer in ‘the Next Few Years’

Taking Initiative

While many developers focus on increasing the intelligence of artificially intelligent (AI) algorithms, IBM is eyeing a different area of technology: quantum computing.

*4* IBM Just Dramatically Upped Its Quantum Computing Game
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Quantum computers are going to be game changers, bringing with them faster data processing and information handling. This increase in speed is made possible through the use of quantum bits (or qubits) instead of the binary bits that current computers employ. Qubits rely on the quantum phenomenon of superposition, which allows them to be 0s or 1s at the same time. This ability to exist in multiple states at once enables qubits to process information more quickly.

IBM has been working on quantum computing technologies for some time now. Last May, the company gave the public access to its 5-qubit quantum computer. These computers, located in their New York labs, were available as a cloud service. More recently still, IBM’s 5-qubit quantum computer competed against another quantum computer and proved to be the faster of the two devices (though qubit sustainability was a bit of an issue).

Now, IBM is pushing for the development of a truly universal quantum computer, and to that end, it has launched IBM Q, “an industry-first initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computers for business and science.”

A Neat Trick and More

Through IBM Q, the company hopes to improve its current quantum computing models by enlisting the help of others interested in the field. IBM is updating its quantum computing cloud service with a new application program interface (API) designed to give developers and programmers who don’t have a background in quantum physics the ability to create interfaces between IBM’s cloud-based quantum computer and traditional computers.

The computing industry giant hopes that these updates will encourage researchers and other interested parties to use their experimental quantum computing system to build more sophisticated applications. “While technologies like AI can find patterns buried in vast amounts of existing data, quantum computers will deliver solutions to important problems where patterns cannot be seen and the number of possibilities that you need to explore to get to the answer are too enormous ever to be processed by classical computers,” IBM explained.

IBM’s goal is to build quantum systems with roughly 50 qubits in the next few years. Once we have those, we’ll be able to truly begin to harness the power of quantum computing, and the applications are endless. Everything from medicine and finance to cloud security and even the modern technological era’s golden child of AI will be faster and more advanced.

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Researchers Have Directly Tested Two Quantum Computing Technologies

The Future of Computing

If you aren’t already, you’re likely soon to find yourself looking forward to the day when quantum computers will replace regular computers for every day use. The computing power of quantum computers is immense compared to what regular desktops or laptops can do. The downside is, current quantum computing technology are limited by the bulky frameworks and extreme conditions they require in order to function.

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Quantum computers need specialized setups in order to sustain and keep quantum bits — the heart of quantum computing — working. These “qubits” are particles in a quantum state of superposition, which allows them to encode and transmit information as 0s and 1s simultaneously. Most computers run on binary bit systems which use either 0s or 1s. Since quantum computers can use both at the same time, they can process more information faster.  That being said, Sustaining the life of qubits is particularly difficult, but researchers are investigating quantum computing studies are trying to find ways to prolong the life of qubits using various techniques.

Survival of the Qubits

Now, for the first time ever, two quantum computers have been pitted against one another. One is a chip developed by IBM and used qubits made from superconducting materials. The other is a chip designed by the University of Maryland that relies on electromagnetic fields to trap a quantum material called ytterbium ions, which can be harvested for for its qubits. Although they used different methods, both chips run algorithms the same way and worked with just five qubits.

Because both were still modest in power, the test couldn’t really show which had better qubits. While IBM’s quantum computer proved to be faster, it was also less reliable. IBM’s qubits also broke down much easier than the University of Maryland’s. The latter had qubits that were interconnected — thanks to the nature of ytterbium — which made them capable of sharing information with each other. IBM’s, on the other hand, needed a central hub to swap information.

Still, it was a valuable experiment, and definitely a sign of improving quantum computing technology. It also stands to help researchers figure out which qubit technology would more efficient and viable for further development. “For a long time, the devices were so immature that you couldn’t really put two five-qubit gadgets next to each other and perform this kind of comparison,” said Simon Benjamin, a University of Oxford physicist who wasn’t part of the study. “It’s a sign that this technology is maturing.”

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A New Method for Making Quantum Computers Has Arrived

Stabler Qubits

The development of quantum computers is currently a major area of technological research, and most of that research is focused on making the heart of quantum computing — the quantum bit, or qubit — more stable. Now, a team from the University of Sussex might have figured out how to do this and in a way that would make quantum computers practical for use.

In a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers detail how they think it’s possible to develop large-scale quantum computers using a simpler method than the one currently in place, which uses individual laser beams projected onto individual ions to create trapped-ions (or charged atoms). Each ion, then, forms a qubit, the unit where data is stored and read in quantum computing, similar to the 1 or 0 bits used in conventional computing.

Credits: University of Sussex
Credits: University of Sussex

This, however, requires billions of quantum bits with billions of lasers aligned to each equivalent ion. Instead of using lasers to align ions, the Sussex team applied voltages to a quantum computer chip to produce the same results with a reportedly low error rate.

“This development is a game changer for quantum computing, making it accessible for industrial and government use,” said lead researcher Winfried Hensinger in a press release. “We will construct a large-scale quantum computer at Sussex making full use of this exciting new technology.”

The Future of Computing

D-Wave has already created quantum computers, and supposedly, Microsoft is moving into the engineering phase of its own quantum computer research and development. But existing quantum computers are hugely expensive and not practical, with almost absurd requirements for operation, so this development out of Sussex is highly welcomed.

Undoubtedly, quantum computers are the future of computing. They can efficiently perform tasks that would take even the most powerful supercomputers of today years to calculate. The processing power inherent in quantum computers make them the perfect tool for solving complex problems in science, medicine, and finance, and they will open up new possibilities for research in these areas and more.

In short, quantum computers will revolutionize society in perhaps the same way — or even more dramatically than — traditional computing did. Of course, it’s one thing to have this model working in a laboratory and another to actually have one that is ready for public use. Nevertheless, we may indeed by getting closer to making one thanks to this new development.

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Scientists Just Created a Key Component For a Quantum Internet

A Better Photon Converter

Creating usable quantum computers is one of the greater technical challenges facing the world today. While a quantum system would allow us to create machines with greater processing capabilities, scientists not only have to straighten out the complex quantum physics that will power the computers, they have to create the tools needed to exploit that power as well. Now, one of the bigger engineering hurdles on the path to quantum computers may have just been passed as new research published in Nature Photonics out of the University of Warsaw and the University of Oxford details a device that can modify the existing properties of individual photons to be used in quantum computers.

The current way of manipulating single photons involves making those photons interact with a very strong optical pump beam. Unfortunately, that process can contaminate the stream of photons in the light beam, and it doesn’t always modify the photon that is being targeted.

The new method uses the electro-optic effect occurring in some crystals. By changing the intensity of an external magnetic field being applied to the crystal, the researchers can change the index of refraction for light in it, which eliminates the need to add any new photons into the mix. “It is quite astounding that in order to modify the quantum properties of individual photons, we can successfully apply techniques very similar to those used in standard fiber-optic telecommunications,” one of the study’s authors, Dr. Michal Karpinski, told Phys.org.

This method and the device the researchers made to carry it out offer several advantages over existing systems. It has an efficiency of 30 percent (nearly 200 times better than current methods), the device can be contained in a 10 cm (4 in) box (ideal for use in an optical fiber system), and it produces little noise.

Bridging Differences

One of the main challenges of developing a quantum internet is creating networks that can work with many different kinds of quantum computers. Existing quantum systems utilize different mediums and light properties. This converter would allow those systems to work with one another.

Quantum computers will eventually be faster and more powerful than the computers we currently have. They will allow us to work with even bigger data sets, like those used in studying DNA and the human genome. They may also end up powering the AI-based systems of tomorrow.

However, to get there we have to pass many scientific and technical hurdles. We are still learning about the complexities of the quantum world, so creating devices that effectively exploit and manipulate that world will take some time.

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