IBM has claimed that its researchers have achieved a major break-through in quantum computing that could help lead to the development of machines able to carry out processing tasks at speeds far beyond those of modern supercomputers.
The firm said that using a variety of different techniques it has managed to establish a series of ways to reduce the errors that can occur during computations to ensure results that quantum computers return using quantum bit (qubit) technology are accurate.
Quantum computing works by the machine analysing both the 1's and 0's of any calculation at the same time, rather than one or the other as current computer do, so calculations can be made far faster, as Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom explained.
"Instead of storing a bit of information as a 1 or a 0, you store it within a qubit as a one or a zero - but groups of qubits work together to allow a broader range of numbers to be stored," he told V3.
"Therefore, a qubit can be in two states at the same time and so a computer built on qubits can have an infinite amount of data stored in them at any one time."
The difficulty for researchers has been making computers able to both carry out calculations in this way and being able to handle the results they generate at the same time, but IBM believes it is now just 10 to 15 years away from cracking this problem.
IBM said its approach is based on the creation of a ‘three-dimensional' superconducting qubit (pictured above), which can improve the time the qubits are able to handle the calculations they can make by as much as four times, although this still only equates to 100 microseconds.
However, IBM said this is long enough to pass the "minimum threshold" that can allow error correction calculations to be instigated, suggesting that researchers can focus on considering how to scale quantum computing to real-world uses.
IBM scientist Matthias Steffen, manager of the IBM research team, said the development could herald the start of a new era of computing.
"The quantum computing work we are doing shows it is no longer just a brute force physics experiment. It's time to start creating systems based on this science that will take computing to a new frontier," he said.
The capabilities of quantum computing could enable huge advances in data security by offering vastly improved encryption capabilities, improved database searching and even being able to solve as yet unsolved mathematical problems, IBM claimed.
The firm is set to unveil results that will provide evidence of its advances at the American Physical Society in Boston on Tuesday.
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