By now, we assume that you are probably familiar with the concept of quantum computing.
This is the basic idea: Quantum computers are exploiting three really unusual features that are operating at the quantum scale – that electrons can actually be both waves and particles, that objects are able to be in more places at the same time, and also that they are able to maintain an instantaneous connection even at the moment when they are separated by vast distances (commonly known as entanglement)
And while the classical computing is using ones and zeroes (binary bits) in order to encode some information, the case is different with quantum computing. Quantum conputing is using “qubits” – quantum bits that are able to be both on and zero, or maybe it is more appropriate to say one but maybe zero. Or…there is a 50-50 chance of being one and zero. You get the idea.
This very unusual property together with entanglement is making possible for a quantum computer to achieve some unprecedented parallel processing power – which actually means it can perform calculations and solve problems that seem impossible for classical computers.
However, there is a small catch here. Building this kind of computer appears to be extraordinary difficult. Of course, it is simple enough to construct processors of few qubits at most, but if you try scaling it up to something as today’s biggest supercomputers may actually lead sacrificing those quantum properties that you wanted to get in the first place.
Recently there was a research that was published in the Nature Communications where scientists from the both Universities of Bristol and Western Australia have shown that even quite primitive quantum processors of only a very few qubits are able to perform these kinds of important computations.
The Quantum Walk
By using a very simple quantum circuit, the scientists could outperform classical computers in some specific highly specialized problems.
“An exciting outcome of our work is that we may have found a new example of quantum walk physics that we can observe with a primitive quantum computer, that otherwise a classical computer could not see,” said Jonathan Matthews of the Centre for Quantum Photonics. “These otherwise hidden properties have practical use, perhaps in helping to design more sophisticated quantum computers.”
So actually the quantum walk is a quantum mechanical version of things like the Brownian motion, which is describing the movement of particles in a suspensions, and all the possible directions that a staggering inebriate could turn, and also all the different ways he could get from a specific point A to a specific point B. Simply put, these quantum processors excel in calculating randomness, which, of course, isn’t so surprising, having in mind how random the quantum world can be in general.
This brand new research will try to design some new quantum algorithms and will probably help on how to construct larger quantum computers. For example, maybe they need to re-think the whole problem, rather than building huge machines like they do in classical computing. Maybe, just maybe, if we slave together a vast array of smaller quantum processors, they could be able to maintain the required quantum effects.
“It’s like the particle can explore space in parallel. This parallelism is key to quantum algorithms, based on quantum walks that search huge databases more efficiently than we can currently,” said Xiaogang Qiang, a student from the University of Bristol who had the honor to work on this experiment.