Quantum Memory Record Broken in Quest for Super-Fast Computers

By Breanna Draxler | November 15, 2013 12:41 pm

quantum-computer-simulationMost record-breakers eke ahead of previous record-holders by fractions of a second. This was not one of those cases.

Before now, the record for storing quantum data at room temperature was two seconds. One. Two. Done. But researchers in Canada announced they’ve now hit 39 minutes. That’s right—they’ve raised the bar from 2 seconds to 39 minutes.

Today’s quantum computers have to be frozen to function—negative 452.2 degrees Fahrenheit—so the challenge was to store the information when the computer was cold, warm it up to room temperature (77 degrees F—a temperature more conducive to everyday computer use), and then bring the temperature back down to retrieve the data.

Building a Better Quantum Computer

Quantum computers are an exciting field of research for the promise they hold in speeding computing times. Instead of storing data in binary 1s and 0s, as conventional computers do, “qubits” on quantum computers can be in a 1 and 0 state simultaneously, allowing each qubit to perform many operations at once.

The storage system tested in the record-setting experiment was a thin sliver of silicon with phosphorous atoms embedded in it. The nuclei of the phosphorous atoms were induced into a quantum state with magnetic pulses at very cold temperature, and then the system was warmed up—after which the induced quantum states persisted for a full 39 minutes, the study which appeared in Science yesterday, describes. As the Verge elaborates:

Though surviving for 39 minutes may not sound like very long, it only requires one-hundred-thousandth of a second to perform an operation on a single qubit. So theoretically, over 20 million operations could be performed before the qubits’ data decayed by 1 percent.

The advance clears a major hurdle in developing powerful new supercomputers and has outside experts excited about the not-so-distant future of the field. And we have to admit, their enthusiasm is infectious. Just think how blazingly fast your Netflix streaming might eventually be.

 Image credit: welcomia/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
  • flabdap

    Please dont demonstrate your ignorance. Quantum state computing memory and internet speeds have nothing to do with each other.

    • Ender Wiggin

      It was talking about speeding up COMPUTING times. Please don’t demonstrate your ignorance.

      • Satyax Prakash

        netflix = comm speed! Please don’t demonstrate your ignorance.

        • Ender Wiggin

          Okay. Then you were agreeing with me, right? Unless comm is slang for something else besides “computer”. Even if quantum computing wouldn’t speed up netflix speeds, it was a gratuitous, satirical comment in the first place.

          • m12345

            Yes it was satirical, quantum computing would have no immediate effect on any consumer for a while. But it might in future eg quantum switchs, quantum routers that can move data around a little faster.

            That said at the end of the day its bandwidth not speed that would help us consumers in the short-term.

          • yrast

            I usually interpret “comm” to be an abbreviation for communication, though netflix=communication speed doesn’t seem to mean much either…

    • Jim Donivan

      It is unnecessary to brand those with which we disagree as…”ignorant”.
      <maketh thine point and be gone while leaving the self-aggrandizing comments unsaid or unwritten.

  • Lisa

    Interesting advancement. With quantum computers we will
    be able to eventually do some crazy stuff – even someday run computer
    universes that are indistinguishable from our own real universe, even
    complete with simulated minds. Possibly to the point where, as books
    such as ‘On Computer Simulated Universes’ suggest, a series of computer
    simulated universes would exist that would run yet more computer
    simulated universes, within a ‘Matryoshkaverse’. We on the verge of a
    quantum computer revolution.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Jonathan Tracey

      The problem with simulating universes indestinguishable from our own is that it would require infinite mass to simulate its’ own operation.

  • yrast

    Quantum computers are only known to speed up a few very specific problems, with very specific caveats. They would likely interfere with a great deal of cryptographic methods, though there are alternatives that are not known to have weaknesses to quantum computers, so we shouldn’t expect cryptography to change much any time soon.

    They give a great increase for factoring, with Shor’s algorithm, but only a modest increase for search, which is already adequately fast, and much easier with classical, so it’s not a big deal either.

    Probably the most important benefit would be to physicists chemists and biologists and pharmacists, who would all likely benefit from the greatly improved ability to simulate much larger quantum mechanical systems than we can currently simulate. But we’re still a very long way away from this. This story is welcome news of the slow and steady progress we’ve been making for the last few decades. But it won’t replace computers for the vast majority of tasks we use computers for, including engineering, and all the physics bigger than maybe bacteria.

    So we shouldn’t mislead people into thinking quantum computing holds some general speedup.

    I wonder how useful it might be in illuminating why decoherence occurs on larger scales… maybe help us pinpoint precisely where the quantum nature gets washed out into classical behavior.

    It’s also incorrect to say they store multiple numbers at once or allow parallel computations. Those can be helpful concepts for understanding the speedup, but they’re not really what is going on. It is better to think about a quantum computer as leveraging the wave-like nature of some quantum-mechanical objects and getting them to interfere with one another in such a way that the correct answers constructively interfere, and the incorrect answers destructively interfere, and so when you measure the objects there is a high probability that they collapse into a correct solution. It’s a clever mechanism, but quite esoteric, and thus only beneficial to a very limited set of problems (so far as we know yet; the huge caveat is that we still have a lot to learn about the universe of computational complexity).

  • XXTime

    The god/universe is waking up to the realization of its own self Creation in action.
    We have reached the end of Time, to begin the new paradigm of understanding the system, rather than believing in the system.
    There is nothing to believe, understanding the system is the crown jewel of philosophical science.
    Edmond I. Cohen

  • Jim Donivan

    lol…Netflix as an example. Bringing science to the non-reader!

  • dsfdsfadsf

    so what is 1 or 0. all the math must have 1= 1 in all equations… so what is 0x0 or 00×0. its not math or processor.. its memory.. cloud computing.. your 1(computer) does apps so only down loads (0). friends computer has the files installed on it. so the friends computer only up loads (1).. all information is streamed live. a one way.. if you have a lot of up loading then you have a lot of zeros.. if you have a lot of down loading you have a lot of ones… if you do this the internet will be a lot faster.. REMEMBER YOU CAN’t HAVE orientation WITH A one WAY..

  • dsfdsfadsf

    now if space physics used a one way as orientation there observations would be quicker… electronics used a one way they would be more.. oh wait they do use a one way. for time to orientate it also must be one way. sorry time travelers…


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