Quantum computing researchers in China have broken their own record for quantum entanglement, reaching 18 quantum bits or 'qubits' - and have now set their sights on pushing that number up to 50.
Their old record of 10 was only set in 2016.
The results of the study were published in the US journal Physical Review Letters. The team of physicists were led by China's leading quantum scientist, Pan Jianwei. Their work takes the possibility of large-scale quantum computing one step closer.
Qubits are the basic building blocks of quantum computing, in the same way that bits are to traditional computing. However, what's challenging about them is that they rely on sub-atomic particles and their ability to exist in more than one state at the same time.
While regular bits can exist in two states - 1 or 0 - qubits can be based on this binary system but also, thanks to entanglement, they can exist in a superposition of states, rather than one or the other. The successful manipulation of qubits in quantum computing would, therefore, allow for computing that is incredibly more powerful than that of today.
"The speed of quantum computing grows exponentially as the number of qubits in an entangled state increases […] the achievement of an 18-qubit entanglement this time has set the world record for largest entanglement state in all physical systems," Wang Xilin, a member of Pan's team told the Global Times.
But that's not all. After their success at 18 qubits, the Chinese scientists have already set themselves a goal of hitting 50 qubits of entanglement in an attempt to demonstrate the abilities of quantum computing devices to solve problems that classical computers cannot. This experiment is called "the quantum supremacy experiment" in international academia, said Wang.
"With that goal, the team's next step will be to realise a 50-qubit entanglement and manipulation," he added.
"The potential applications of quantum computing are huge, [and] so are the challenges faced."
As physicists around the world aim to break such records, quantum computing has quickly become one of the most competitive fields in the world in science.
For example, the US House Science Committee recently introduced a bill creating a 10-year National Quantum Initiative (PDF) aimed at developing quantum information science and technology.
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