A radical transformation in the computer industry
For decades, the renowned physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman advocated for the continued investigation of quantum physics due to its potential application in computing. Despite the concept’s long-standing existence, most people are unfamiliar with the idea of quantum computing and its potential impact on the future.
The limited knowledge regarding quantum computing could be due to the research in this field being conducted mainly in a theoretical context until recently. Additionally, the original development of quantum computers for military purposes probably impeded the widespread dissemination of information about the benefits of this technology.
Although traditional computing systems based on transistors have been successful over the years, recent progress has shifted attention to quantum computing. This is due to the existing technology reaching its limits, and for further advancement to occur, a fundamental overhaul of how computers operate is necessary. This is precisely where quantum physics can provide a solution.
A Milestone in the Evolution of Computers
Possessing a comprehensive knowledge of the existing computer system and its fundamental principles is necessary to comprehend the potential benefits of quantum computing. You are probably aware that computers typically function using a binary system.
For the sake of this explanation, it is adequate to know that data is stored and retrieved in computers by means of transistors. Transistors are essentially binary switches, functioning as ‘on/off’ switches. When multiple transistors are combined, they generate a sequence of instructions that constitute a particular program.
Transistors have the ability to exist in two distinct states, represented as ‘1’ or ‘0’ in binary, which correspond to the ‘on’ or ‘off’ states, respectively. This binary system enables computers to store data in a discrete form called ‘bits’. Transistors control the transmission of electrical signals, and the bit value determines if the signal has successfully passed through the logic gate. If the bit value is ‘1’, it indicates that the signal has passed through the gate, while a value of ‘0’ means that it has not.
In recent decades, this fundamental architecture has been highly effective. By shrinking electrical components like transistors to a tiny 7nm (which is a thousand times smaller than a red blood cell!), computers have been able to include millions of these devices, leading to greater processing power. While miniaturization has been a successful strategy for a significant period, we have now reached a technological impasse in terms of further reducing the size of transistors.
As any physicist can confirm, transistors have a fundamental limitation that renders them ineffective. This is because, if the size of transistors is reduced beyond a certain point, the electrical current will not be able to pass through them as if they were absent. In other words, the transistors become too small to function as logic gates, rendering binary systems and the use of 0s and 1s obsolete.
This has given rise to some concerns. The current technology enables us to attain a satisfactory balance between portability and computing power. We could opt to continue producing transistors that are as small as possible, but that would require constructing larger and more unwieldy devices and computers than what is feasible at present. Quantum computing offers a promising prospect of abandoning the binary system in favor of something novel and innovative.
Currently, we are at a critical juncture in the evolution of computers and must make a decision soon. Furthermore, we seem to be moving towards quantum computing. Nevertheless, it is crucial to have a grasp of how it functions.
Computing Technology Based on Qubits
In the realm of quantum computing, qubits are utilized as a substitute for traditional bits to store data. These qubits are represented by quantum particles like electrons and photons, and are beneficial due to their distinctive properties that enable them to express either a 0 or a 1. For instance, qubits can be assigned a spin in a specific direction; a spin upwards can be interpreted as a 1, whereas a downwards spin can be interpreted as a 0.
Quantum computing shares many similarities with transistor-based technology. Nevertheless, the distinct aspect of qubits, namely superposition, heightens the effectiveness of quantum computing. This phenomenon enables a qubit to exist in multiple states concurrently, which it maintains during a calculation until it eventually settles on either a 1 or a 0.
The superior performance of quantum computers can be attributed to the combination of two distinct features: superposition and quantum entanglement. Superposition is a phenomenon in quantum mechanics where particles can exist in multiple states simultaneously. Conversely, quantum entanglement is a phenomenon where two or more particles are interdependent, meaning that one particle’s state impacts the state of the other particle. As a result, when the state of one qubit changes, the state of the entangled qubit also changes accordingly, causing them to function as a single system.
It has been a while since you last thought about that? This is because quantum computing enables parallel processing, which enables numerous computations to be executed simultaneously. This results in decreased processing time, improved speed, and the capability to tackle more intricate operations.
The Significance of Quantum Computing
It is evident that quantum computers will be crucial in the future, and we trust that the above has furnished a comprehensive outline of why this is the case. However, owing to technical restraints, there is currently no practical approach to expand our processing capacity further. You may now be wondering why we would want to extend our computing capabilities.
Undoubtedly, quantum computing offers numerous potential benefits. In a world dominated by “big data,” quantum devices would enable swift examination of vast datasets, facilitating the identification of trends far more expeditiously. Additionally, this technology has the potential to improve communication networks, enhance the training of AI systems, and manufacture highly precise sensors for medical applications.
The European Union has kicked off the Quantum Technologies Flagship project with the objective of transforming business and society worldwide through quantum computing. To further advance the second quantum revolution and the related technological breakthroughs, the EU has allocated a budget of €1 billion to support hundreds of researchers over the next decade. However, it is crucial to note that the journey towards achieving these ambitious goals is anticipated to be arduous.
To achieve these goals, researchers are presently endeavoring to create a meticulous environment for qubits and exploring methods to manipulate the properties of quantum particles themselves. Despite this, headway is being made, and the necessary work is being carried out. The year 2040 is often mentioned as the juncture at which quantum computers will be viable for widespread, commercial use. While this may appear to be a long time from now, given the potentially immense impact that quantum computers could have on our utilization of computers, it is crucial to have a plan of action in place.
The security aspect of quantum computing poses a significant challenge that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States is addressing seriously. The massive increase in computing power that quantum computing could unleash could make several of the currently utilized encryption techniques redundant swiftly. To brace for the prospective future of quantum computing, NIST is actively exploring the potential of post-quantum cryptography.
The potential of computing at a quantum level is far superior to what we can currently accomplish with classical computing. Utilizing quantum devices, intricate calculations, simulations, and analyses that would require thousands of years to accomplish using traditional computing can now be completed in mere minutes. Nonetheless, it is only recently that the complete implications of quantum technology are beginning to be investigated in the scientific realm, which poses its own set of challenges.
It is a challenging task to predict the potential impact that quantum computing could have on our lives, and despite the fact that it will still take some time before we can start to utilize such technology, the possibilities are genuinely mind-blowing. The progress of quantum computing holds enormous significance for the future because it could trigger a wide range of transformations that could revolutionize the world as we recognize it.