The concept of supercomputer has been around for some while. Each and everyone has certain expectations when it comes to the shape of the future. For some, this future holds flying saucers, for others highly intelligent supercomputers. It would seem that the future may come early than anticipated. IBM receives a research grant to develop quantum computers the next logical step into computer technology.
In order to see why the IBM and IARPA are so keen on putting this project in motion, let’s take a look at what a quantum computer is. Until now, the fastest computer in the world is China’s Tianhe-2. To get an idea of what this monstrous apparatus is capable of, we should state that the computer is capable of performing over 34 trillion of operation per second. That would mean that it’s computational speed is estimated at 34 petaflops per second.
If this doesn’t impress you, maybe its size will. The monstrous design occupies an area of approximately 8000 feet and it is being used in order to perform intricate mathematical operations. The computer is able to work with multifactorial variables, which makes it ideal for any number of applications such as molecular modeling and air traffic control.
Moving on, before we talk about quantum computers, we should first mention the fact that a traditional computer, be it your everyday work laptop or the Tianhe-2, incorporates a lot of physical components that are able to encode bits into a binary format.
Now, a quantum computer is capable of going beyond that. Each bit in a quantum computer is about the size of an atom. Each atom is capable of encoding the information in a 0 and 1 manner and it can also encode the bits by superpositioning the 0 and 1 format, meaning that there is no absolutely no difference in quantum terminology when it comes to true or false.
Three of such units, defined as quantum bits, or qubits for short, are capable of representing 8 separate value at the same time. This, in term, would mean that, if the project proves to be viable, quantum computers could very well replace traditional computers somewhere in the nearby future.
Apart from being faster than a traditional computational system, a quantum computer is also capable of working with hundreds if not thousands of variables at the same time. The only downside it that the qubits are very fragile. In order to assemble an entire computational ensemble, capable of performing complex calculations, the scientists must work on stabilizing the array.
These qubits must be shielded from heat and electromagnetic interference. Moreover, all pieces must be cool down to a temperature that reaches absolute zero. IBM has even managed to develop a prototype that incorporates 8 qubits. It should be worth mentioning that if the qubits are not kept in this condition, then the whole array will end up displaying several errors. IBM is trying to find a way around this by adding physical components capable of signaling and correcting quantum errors.