Why Quantum Computers Are so Crucial

Fundamental shift in the computer industry

For many years, the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman called for the further exploration of quantum physics for its potential use in computing. Despite the long-standing presence of this concept, the majority of the population remains unaware of what quantum computing is and the potential implications it could have for the future.

It is possible that a lack of awareness of quantum computing could be attributed to the fact that until recently, a majority of research into this field was conducted in a theoretical capacity. Furthermore, the initial design of quantum computers for military purposes likely hindered the progress of making the advantages of this technology widely known.

Despite the success of traditional transistor-based computing systems over the years, recent advances have shifted the focus to quantum computing. This is because the current technology is reaching its limits and, if we are to make further progress, we must fundamentally alter the way computers operate. This is where quantum physics comes into play.

Iconic moment in the development of computers

It is integral to have a comprehensive understanding of the current computer system and its core principles in order to fully comprehend the possible advantages of quantum computing. It is likely that you are familiar with the fact that computers typically operate using a binary system.

It is sufficient for the purpose of this explanation to understand that data is stored and retrieved in computers using transistors. Transistors are essentially ‘on/off’ switches, and when several of them are combined it creates a sequence of instructions which form a specific programme.

Transistors have the capability to exist in two distinct states: ‘on’ or ‘off’, represented in binary as ‘1’ or ‘0’ respectively. This binary system is what allows computers to store data in a discrete form, known as ‘bits’. The transmission of electrical signals is managed by transistors, and the value of the bits can be used to determine whether or not the signal has been successfully passed through the logic gate. A bit value of ‘1’ indicates that the signal has passed through the gate, and a value of ‘0’ indicates that the signal has not.

Over the past few decades, this core structure has been extremely successful. Thanks to the shrinking of electrical components, such as transistors, to a miniscule 7nm (which is a thousand times smaller than a red blood cell!), computers have been able to incorporate millions of these devices, granting them greater processing power. This method of miniaturization has been successful for a considerable amount of time, however we are now at a technological deadlock when it comes to further reducing the size of transistors.

As any physicist will be able to inform you, transistors are not particularly useful due to a fundamental limit. This is because if the transistors were made any smaller than a certain size, the electrical current would be unable to pass through them as if they were not present. In simpler terms, the transistors would become too tiny to function as logic gates, making binary systems and the use of 0s and 1s redundant.

Issues have come to light as a result of this. Existing technology affords us the opportunity to achieve an appropriate level of equilibrium between portability and computing power. We could choose to continue to produce transistors that are as diminutive as possible, however this would necessitate the manufacture of larger, more cumbersome devices and computers than what is presently possible. Quantum computing presents a welcome opportunity to forsake the binary system in favor of something new and innovative.

At present, we are at a pivotal moment in the development of computers and must make a decision soon. Additionally, it appears that we are transitioning towards quantum computing. However, it is essential to understand how it actually works.

Technology based on qubits for computing

In the field of quantum computing, qubits are used as an alternative to conventional bits to represent data. These qubits are symbolized by quantum particles such as electrons and photons, and are advantageous due to their unique properties which allow them to display either a 0 or a 1. For example, qubits can be assigned a spin in a specific direction; an upwards spin can be interpreted as a 1, and a downwards spin can be interpreted as a 0.

It is evident that quantum computing possesses many similar characteristics to transistor-based technology. However, the unique feature of qubits, known as superposition, further enhances the efficiency of quantum computing. This phenomenon allows a qubit to exist in multiple states simultaneously, which it will remain in during the course of a calculation until it eventually settles into either a one or a zero.

The superior performance of quantum computers can be attributed to a combination of two distinct features; superposition and quantum entanglement. Superposition is a phenomenon in quantum mechanics where particles can exist in multiple states at the same time. Quantum entanglement, on the other hand, is a phenomenon where two or more particles are interdependent, meaning that the state of one particle affects the state of the other. This means that when the state of one qubit changes, the state of the entangled qubit will also alter accordingly, making them behave as if they were a single system.

It has been some time since you gave consideration to that? This is because parallel processing is enabled, which enables multiple computations to be executed at once. This helps to reduce processing time, enhance speed, and makes it possible to solve more complicated processes.

Reasons why quantum computing matters

It is clear that quantum computers will be essential in the future, and we hope that the above has provided a comprehensive overview of why this is the case. Unfortunately, there is currently no feasible way to increase our processing capacity further due to technical limitations. You may then be asking yourself why we would want to extend our computing capabilities.

It is undeniable that quantum computing presents a multitude of potential benefits. In a world dominated by ‘big data’, quantum devices would enable rapid analysis of large datasets, allowing for the identification of trends in a much more expedited manner. Moreover, this technology could be used to improve communication networks, facilitate the training of AI systems, and create highly accurate sensors for medical uses.

The European Union has initiated the Quantum Technologies Flagship with the aim of revolutionizing business and society on a global scale via quantum computing. To further advance the second quantum revolution and the associated technological breakthroughs, the EU has allocated a budget of €1 billion to finance hundreds of researchers over the next ten years. However, it is important to note that the journey towards achieving these ambitious objectives is not expected to be straightforward.

In order to realize these objectives, scientists are currently striving to create a carefully managed environment for qubits and researching approaches to control the properties of the quantum particles themselves. Despite this, progress is being made and the necessary work is being completed. The year 2040 is often cited as the point in which quantum computers will be ready for broad, commercial use. While this may seem like an extended period of time, considering the potentially immense effect that quantum computers could have on our utilization of computers, it is essential to have a plan of action in place.

The security of quantum computing presents an immense challenge that the United States’ National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is taking seriously. The immense increase in computing power that quantum computing could bring about could quickly render many of the encryption methods currently in use obsolete. In order to prepare for the potential future of quantum computing, NIST is actively researching the potential of post-quantum cryptography.

The potential of computing on a quantum level is significantly greater than what we are currently able to achieve with classical computing. By using quantum devices, complicated calculations, simulations and analyses that would take millennia to complete using traditional computing, can be completed in a matter of minutes. However, it is only now that the full implications of quantum technology are beginning to be explored in the scientific world, and this comes with its own set of challenges.

It is difficult to anticipate the potential impact that quantum computing could have on our lives, and although we still have some time to wait before we can start to use such technology, the possibilities are truly astonishing. The advancement of quantum computing is of great importance to the future, as it could bring about a multitude of changes that could revolutionise the world as we know it.

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