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Quantum cruncher beats today's computers by 1080

300 atoms do more than computer “larger than known universe”

By Simon Sharwood • In Science • At 00:56 GMT 26th April 2012

An international team of scientists has created a quantum device with “the potential to perform calculations that would require a supercomputer larger than the size of the known universe.”

So says the University of Sydney's Dr Michael Biercuk of the University's School of Physics, the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems and the team that worked on the device discussed in a Nature paper released yesterday.

The quantum device in question uses a pancake-shaped crystal of beryllium ions – 300 to be precise – that Bieruck says the team built “from scratch, atom by atom”. He told ABC radio that lasers, pumps and vacuum chambers were used to create the disc, and that the rig occupies only a single room.

But the number of programmable qubits the crystal offers, the team say, has computational potential that is orders of magnitude – by a factor of 1080 - beyond current supercomputers.

While very exciting, Bieruck also admits that no known computer can check the accuracy of calculations performed with the new quantum simulator. So there's no need to apply for that course in Q++ just yet!

Bieruck talks about the simulator and plays with some important-looking gadgets in the video below. ®

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