[ExI] Physicists take big step in race to quantum computing

John Grigg possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com
Tue Aug 10 00:07:16 UTC 2021

"A team of physicists from the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms and
other universities has developed a special type of quantum computer known
as a programmable quantum simulator capable of operating with 256 quantum
bits, or "qubits."

The system marks a major step toward building large-scale quantum machines
that could be used to shed light on a host of complex quantum processes and
eventually help bring about real-world breakthroughs in material science,
communication technologies, finance, and many other fields, overcoming
research hurdles that are beyond the capabilities of even the fastest
supercomputers today. Qubits are the fundamental building blocks on which
quantum computers run and the source of their massive processing power.

"This moves the field into a new domain where no one has ever been to thus
far," said Mikhail Lukin, the George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Physics,
co-director of the Harvard Quantum Initiative, and one of the senior
authors of the study published today in the journal *Nature*. "We are
entering a completely new part of the quantum world."

According to Sepehr Ebadi, a physics student in the Graduate School of Arts
and Sciences and the study's lead author, it is the combination of system's
unprecedented size and programmability that puts it at the cutting edge of
the race for a quantum computer, which harnesses the mysterious properties
of matter at extremely small scales to greatly advance processing power.
Under the right circumstances, the increase in qubits means the system can
store and process exponentially more information than the classical bits on
which standard computers run.

"The number of quantum states that are possible with only 256 qubits
exceeds the number of atoms in the solar system," Ebadi said, explaining
the system's vast size.

Already, the simulator has allowed researchers to observe several exotic
quantum states of matter that had never before been realized
experimentally, and to perform a quantum phase transition study so precise
that it serves as the textbook example of how magnetism works at the
quantum level.

These experiments provide powerful insights on the quantum physics
underlying material properties and can help show scientists how to design
new materials with exotic properties.

The project uses a significantly upgraded version of a platform the
researchers developed in 2017, which was capable of reaching a size of 51
qubits. That older system allowed the researchers to capture ultra-cold
rubidium atoms and arrange them in a specific order using a one-dimensional
array of individually focused laser beams called optical tweezers."
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