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Andrew Lu Enoch Hsiao Period 8, POE Mr.


The Future of Quantum Computing

Abstract Quantum computing is the future of technology. Since 1985, researchers have dreamed of harnessing the power of quantum mechanics to compute complex algorithms at extreme speeds and efficiency, revolutionizing fields such as encryption and modelling/simulation. Unfortunately, this vision has long been hindered by various technological obstacles, including accurately manipulating tiny particles, maintaining the superposition state in qubits for long periods of time, scaling stable small-scale systems into larger, practical systems, and reducing the size of quantum computing equipment, among others. With new technologies and techniques being researched and refined, researchers are drawing closer to achieving a practical quantum computer, one improvement at a time. Promising approaches include using nuclear magnetic resonance, quantum dots, and ion traps. With the development of smaller, stabler equipment to augment the current approach of using ion traps, practical, functional quantum computers could soon become a reality.

The Future of Quantum Computing

Present Technology Quantum computing is one of the next great leaps of computing technology. An ordinary bit exists as one of two states, zero or one. A probabilistic bit has a certain probability of being either one or zero. However, as the transistor gets smaller and smaller, it will come under the domain of quantum effects. A quantum bit, or qubit, exists simultaneously in the one and zero states, only collapsing into either when it is observed. What it collapses into - zero or one - is a certain probability. This is called superposition, and is the computing application of a very basic quantum phenomenon analogous to the famous Schrodinger's Cat thought experiment. Quantum memory allows for much more powerful calculations at impossible speeds by enacting calculations on all possible states simultaneously, then observing the result for a single answer, in a process called quantum parallelism. Entanglement is another basic quantum principle. When multiple particles are entangled, one part of the system cannot be described without describing all other parts of the system. For example, the singlet state is when two particles are in opposite states, say one is "zero" and the other is "one." If the state of one of the particles is discovered, the other particle has to be in the opposite state regardless of physical distance. Entanglement can be used to transmit information this way, and is crucial to the construction of more complex quantum computers (Gao et. al, 2010). The most basic component of quantum computing is the qubit. Like the normal bit, when a measurement is performed on a qubit, it yields only one of two states. However, the qubit can be imagined as a sphere that is measurable from multiple angles

rather than a point that is on or off like a bit, or a line that is split into two probabilities like a probabilistic bit. Furthermore, every time a qubit is measured, its state is randomly altered, which leads to complications in making measurements between calculations. Quantum computers must make all their calculations and then read a final answer only once. Any extraneous measurements, being any interaction with any other particle, would collapse the quantum state early, leading to decoherence and false results (Schlosshauer, 2005). There are many ways to create a quantum computer, as anything can function as a qubit as long as it has two distinct and controllable states, such as the up and down spins of an electron. A popular quantum computer design is to supercool a few atoms captured in ion traps until they exhibit superconducting properties. By exciting the ions with a laser, just enough energy can be added to put the particles in a superposition state or entangle them with other ions (Palmer, 2010). Alternative methods include splitting a photon with a special crystal or beam splitter into two separate and entangled particles (Laing et al, 2010), and using electromagnetic pulses to put energy into and control particles that have the property of nuclear magnetic resonance. The current state of the art quantum computers have three co-entangled qubits inside a circuit (DiCarlo et al, 2010). The most co-entangled qubits is eight, whereas at least thirty is necessary for a working quantum computer (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2010). The Canadian startup D-Wave has made a quantum computer that can run 64,000 operations simultaneously, with 16 qubits. (Geordie, 2007), though some are skeptical that they have demonstrated true entanglement. The maximum decoherence time, the time in which the calculation needs to be completed before outside interference

introduces too much error, is about a millisecond or so. A single element quantum logic gate has been proven feasible, and work on multi-element logic gates is starting. Rudimentary quantum computers still take up large spaces and require lots of bulky and specialized equipment. Though there have been many breakthroughs up to this point, many more, and more importantly the synthesis of these disparate advances into a single machine, are required to have quantum computers at any level of general functionality.

History Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman is credited with being the pioneer of the field of quantum computing. He is best known for his extensive work in quantum mechanics, developing what became known as Feynman diagrams and winning his Nobel prize for his work in quantum electrodynamics. Feynman first thought up a conceptual quantum computer that used quantum mechanics to its advantage in 1982 (Bone et. al, 1997). However, his theories on quantum computing remained theoretical. Then, in 1985, an Israeli-British physicist named David Elieser Deutsch formulated the first algorithm designed to run on a real quantum computer. Deutsch is also credited with positing the quantum Turing machine, an abstract model used to model the function of quantum computers, proving that the two-state system of quantum particles could be used as quantum gates to function similarly to the binary logic gates found in normal computers (Newman, 2005). The possibilities of such a quantum computer were expanded upon with the development in 1994 of Shors quantum factoring algorithm (known as Shors Algorithm), an algorithm that would find factors of large integers with unprecedented speed and efficiency, and in 1996 with Grovers quantum search algorithm (Newman, 4

2005). Shors Algorithm sparked a real surge of research by physicists and computer scientists in the field of quantum computing; since most encryption schemes are based on the difficulty of factoring large integers, Shors Algorithm could break current codes with unimaginable speed. The first execution of a quantum algorithm was in 1998, when researchers at Oxford University created the first two-qubit quantum computer. In 2001 researchers at IBMs Almaden labs and Stanford used Shors algorithm to factor 15 into 3 and 5. Though a simple calculation, the use of quantum methods provided a glimpse of the actual work possible to a quantum computer.
Researchers at IBM, MIT, Standford, NIST and many other institutions all over

the world have undertaken research into quantum computing.

Future Technology Twenty years into the future, quantum technology will still in a state of development. By this time, multi qubit entanglement states will have been created, along with the extremely precise equipment needed to read and write these states without collapsing the quantum superposition. The preferred method of quantum computing will be in ion trap based processors expanding upon current designs. Ion traps have already been shown (Stick et al, 2006) to have the basic functionality of altering the state of a qubit or rotating it, as well as reading the state of the qubit. A controlled-NOT gate has long been developed, the most basic part of a circuit, using a trapped-ion quantum computer system. The operations themselves use lasers to excite or collapse the ion. Ion traps are already fabricated, being the driving mechanism behind the worlds most accurate atomic clocks. Continuing development of ion traps themselves will go hand in hand with development of quantum computers. Already methods have been 5

devised of creating trap junctions that keep the temperature low so qubits dont lose information in transit (Amini et al, 2010), and new ion traps that can hold multiple ions and combine into larger ion arrays (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2010). Scientists will gain finer and finer control over smaller and more efficient ion traps. In time they will overcome the difficulties of ion trap based quantum computing, namely the need to control the ions very strictly, in favor of its strengths, being ease of manipulation, low loss of data at read time due to very fast reading of data from the electrons of the ion, and the modular addition of qubits. Since ions are inherently more reactive than other qubit possibilities such as diamond nuclei, they are at a higher risk for decoherence (DiCarlo et al, 2010). To counteract this, extra qubits would be needed to run correction algorithms which bring back data lost to partial decoherence by working backwards with knowledge of qubit activity, similar to modern algorithms to reclaim information from damaged sectors on a hard drive. Though this approach may seem to add more work, this active approach works with the strengths of ion traps, and will generate even more advancement in adding qubits to quantum computers. All this will be brought together into the first practically functional quantum computers. Though not necessarily more powerful than modern computers in general applications, their exceptional power at cryptography, quantum level simulation, and a few other tasks means that the first groups to own quantum computers will be governments. The first generation of quantum computers will be born in a manner similar to their predecessors: exclusive to large corporations, universities and governments. This time though, they will take up entire rooms not due to enormous vacuum tubes, but the

cooling equipment needed to keep the very reactive ions under complete control. Over time, this too will diminish, either from breakthroughs in stable ions at room temperature or the miniaturization of cooling equipment. These first quantum computers will be used primarily for cracking codes, testing new ones, and the occasional scientific experiment. Steady progress in quantum computing power will lead to cheaper costs and smaller equipment. Over time, quantum computers will become more and more widely available to corporations that need them for handling ever more complex problems. Eventually the demand for more computer power will result in the miniaturization of the transistor to the size of a single molecule, forcing the transition into quantum methods. Most likely this future will involve cloud computing, where users connect to a central quantum computer network that actually handles the computations. One day a personal quantum computer may even exist, as the technology behind quantum computers itself undergoes continual miniaturization.

Breakthroughs Various breakthroughs are necessary in the field of quantum computing in order to make practical quantum computers a realistic possibility. The largest problem researchers are currently facing with quantum computing is decoherence. Quantum computers are dependent on qubits remaining in superposition, or both classic 0 and 1 positions at the same time, thus allowing for incredible computing power. Decoherence prevents most approaches at creating quantum computers from succeeding in since quantum data is lost whenever qubits decohere and lose superposition, returning to one of the two classic states (Bone et. al, 1997). Currently, the particles used as qubits all suffer from extremely short periods of staying in superposition, falling back into either 7

one of the classic states too quickly to allow time for complex computational steps. However, if the particles used as qubits could be kept in their superposition states for longer periods of time, there would be much more time for computational steps and performing complex quantum calculations on would become a reality. Beyond decreasing decoherence, there are still many other breakthroughs and improvements that are required to help quantum computing realize its potential in supplanting todays traditional computers. With the advancement of multi-qubit entanglement, quantum computers would be able to compute much more complex algorithms at much faster speeds. However, controlling single qubits in superposition is already extremely difficult, and the technology to control entangled qubits does not yet exist. Furthermore, developing technology to allow multiple logic gate operations would bring quantum computing one step closer to programmability. Although in the past quantum logic gates have not been accurate enough to function practically, the technology is already being developed to construct much more accurate quantum gates (Laing et al, 2010), and the next step will be to pave the way for multi-gate elements, bringing quantum computing closer and closer to practical use. Finally, constructing quantum computing equipment of any kind and experimenting is extremely expensive due to the type of advanced equipment necessary and nature of quantum computing. Even after all the necessary breakthroughs are made for quantum computing to become useful, in order for it to become usable in everyday life, the cost of construction and delicacy of quantum systems must be reduced. However, with the current approaches and technology, decreasing the high cost of constructing quantum computer components is still a distant dream, considering the current stages of

quantum computing. Still, such a breakthrough would be important and necessary in the process of this technology becoming accessible and useful for people all over the world.

Design Process One interesting approach to constructing a quantum computer is taking advantage of a point defect in diamond known as a nitrogen-vacancy center (N-V center). This imperfection in diamonds crystal shape exhibits quantum mechanical behavior when manipulated with magnetic or electric fields or radiation. One benefit of using this approach is that there is no need for the usual cold conditions used to slow down the motion of the particles used as qubits in other quantum computing systems since the N-V centers can be manipulated at room temperature. However, this design is plagued by the necessity for extremely precise manipulation on impeccably produced nanostructures within the diamonds. Even if technology accurate enough to manipulate this kind of quantum system is developed, it is likely to be expensive and fragile, making this approach still feasible but also impractical for creating functioning quantum computers. Another approach to constructing a working quantum computer is using quantum dots; single electrons each contained within a tiny space. The theory behind quantum dots is that pulses of laser light can manipulate each electron in order to excite the electrons into its excited and ground states. In order to achieve the superposition state of a qubit, the pulse of light would simply need to be half the duration needed to knock the electron into its excited state. The benefits of quantum dots include the extremely small size of the dots (1 nanometer across) and the resulting ease in which a large scale can be created, something that challenges most other methods. However, the size of the proposed quantum dots is also their drawback. Due to the microscopic size of each dot, a computer 9

constructed from quantum dots would be difficult to manufacture. Furthermore, the electron in each dot is only able to stay in an excited state for about a microsecond, meaning that only so many calculations would be able to be performed before the dots lost data after the electrons returned to their ground state. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to construct a quantum computer is a technique which allows for manipulation of quantum information through liquids rather than individual particles, decreasing the effect of external forces that make possible quantum computing extremely fragile and unstable. By using the nuclei of molecules as qubits instead of the traditional tiny particles, researchers are able to delay the onset of decoherence much longer than any other method. However, there is a significant bound on the number of qubits that can be added to a NMR-based quantum computer before the signal being used to make calculations becomes too weak. This imposes a severe limit on the scale that an NMR quantum computer can achieve and thus reduces the practicality of such a computer with a large number of qubits. Finally, using ion traps is yet another approach to creating a working quantum computer. Ion traps rely on electromagnetic trap structures to shuttle ions through, using the motion of ions and their interactions through intermolecular forces to process quantum information. Scaling ion trap systems is possible due to the techniques of shuttling ions and the size is also not an issue as with NMR. Furthermore, although quantum dots may be smaller and easier to scale with, ion traps are the most comprehensive approach, combining both scaling and ease of manipulating. Coupled with the breakthrough of reducing decoherence, practical ion trap quantum computers would sudden become much more feasible than before.


Consequences The benefit of quantum computers is in their unique computational abilities. A quantum computer is inherently better at simulating quantum events which require massive amounts of processing power by traditional methods. This could lead to huge strides in problems that are impossible for current computers to solve, such as the simulation of several atoms interacting with each other. This applies both to physics and biology, where the computer simulation of internal cell functions has been frustrated time and time again due to immense complexity at the molecular level. Even further in the future, quantum computing will provide the next step in the progression of computing power. Certain tasks will be dramatically sped up, positively affecting both scientific pursuits and certain aspects of productivity in the private sector. For example, quantum search could be used by corporations to better manage ever-growing libraries of data on consumer trends, employees, or any other large body of data. Though quantum algorithms are only faster in certain areas, the demand for and eventual commercialization of the technology will lead to a burgeoning new growth of technology startups. These will in turn drive the economy. Quantum computings application in cryptography may have dangerous side effects. Because it can easily defeat the most common cypher method today, one that relies on the difficulty of factoring numbers made of enormous composite primes, the first nation to develop a working quantum computer could gain a lot of power in the national intelligence arena. New cryptography methods would have to be invented, and a lot of existing agencies may be under a security risk. Quantum computers would also


require many rare metals in their production, the acquisition of which may continue the global trend of depleting irreplaceable natural resources. Struggle over increasingly valuable materials may also bring turmoil to already unstable areas, such as Afghanistan, where there is a huge deposit of valuable minerals including lithium.


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