Updated 03:03 AM EDT, Fri, Apr 16, 2021

Researchers Make Breakthrough in Qubit Viability

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Traditional logic tells us that data in a computer is stored and analyzed in a series of "ones and zeros," but a research team in Canada may be about to turn that logic on its head with the development of the "qubit."

Through the laws of quantum mechanics, a qubit is a piece of data that can be either a "one" or a "zero" or a "superposition" of both at the same time. It is a function of quantum mechanics and quantum computing is said to be able to improve certain aspects of computing.

One problem: qubits are generally stored as photons or gas, and the introduction of solid materials into the process has been troublesome. In the past, qubits had to be stored at a temperature of near absolute-zero. That is until last week.

Researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia have been able to preserve a qubit at room temperature for a 39 minutes. Previous attempts have lasted only seconds. The extended length of preservation means that it is theoretically possible to build such qubits into solid-state hardware, making them more commercially feasible.

"Quantum computing in materials such as silicon would simplify integration with existing electronic components; however, the coherence times of such qubits, especially at room temperature, are affected by the interaction with the busy environment of a solid," reads the summary statement on their report in Science. "Eliminating isotopic impurities from the host material improves coherence times, as observed for qubits, based on the nuclear spin of neutral P donors in Si."

The researchers created the qubit by embedding phosophorus atom in a very pure silicon crystal and inducing superposition by hitting them with magnetic pulses, according to CBC News in Canada.

"It's an engineering challenge rather than a physics challenge," said co-author Stephanie Simmons, an Oxford University physics research fellow to CBC reporters. "It's not going to be something you can use tomorrow. It's just a step on the way."

But it is a step toward quantum computing, which many believe can revolutionize the industry by allowing computers to encode data by moving machines past the confines of "ones and zeros."

But Associate Professor Andrea Morello of the University of New South Wales says that quantum computers will not be replacing the current technology for most applications.

Morello says that quantum computers are not a replacement for classical computers.

"They're not universally faster," Morello said in an interview on Youtube's Veritasium science-based channel. "They're only faster for special types of calculations where you can use the fact that you have all this quantum superposition available to you at the same time.... if you just want to watch a video in high definition or browse the Internet or write some document in Word, they're not going to give you any particular improvement.

"You should not think of a quantum computer as something where every operation is faster. In fact, every operation is probably going to be slower than in the computer you have on your desk. But it's a computer where the number of operations required to arrive at the result is exponentially smaller."

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