Quantum computers could spur the development of new breakthroughs in science, medications to save lives, machine learning methods to diagnose illnesses sooner, materials to make more efficient devices and structures, financial strategies to live well in retirement, and algorithms to quickly direct resources such as ambulances. But what exactly is quantum computing, and what does it take to achieve these quantum breakthroughs? Here’s what you need to know.
We experience the benefits of classical computing every day. However, there are challenges that today’s systems will never be able to solve. For problems above a certain size and complexity, we don’t have enough computational power on Earth to tackle them.
To stand a chance at solving some of these problems, we need a new kind of computing. Universal quantum computers leverage the quantum mechanical phenomena of superposition and entanglement to create states that scale exponentially with number of qubits, or quantum bits.
All computing systems rely on a fundamental ability to store and manipulate information. Current computers manipulate individual bits, which store information as binary 0 and 1 states. Quantum computers leverage quantum mechanical phenomena to manipulate information. To do this, they rely on quantum bits, or qubits.
There are a few different ways to create a qubit. One method uses superconductivity to create and maintain a quantum state. To work with these superconducting qubits for extended periods of time, they must be kept very cold. Any heat in the system can introduce error, which is why quantum computers operate at temperatures close to absolute zero, colder than the vacuum of space. Take a look at how a quantum computer’s dilution refrigerator, made from more than 2,000 components, creates such a cold environment for the qubits inside.