The future of quantum computers

What are quantum computers? What applications will they have? Is it the computing of the future? We chat with Juan Ignacio Cirac about this technology.

In 2013, Google announced the launch of a laboratory focused on quantum computing. An initiative similar to that developed by Microsoft and other large companies, by which they joined their efforts with those of the R&D centers that intend to build the first quantum computers.

The arrival of D-Wave 2X, the first computer deployed by NASA and Google, has greatly accelerated work to develop the first quantum computers. Because as Dr. Juan Ignacio Cirac, director of the Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Germany, “the fundamental difference it is that we still do not have any quantum computer, only small prototypes ».

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Public-private research in the last decade has accelerated the advent of quantum computers. These devices, according to the Spanish physicist, will serve «to make powerful calculationscalculations that normally people do not have to do, but those who do material design or drug development, for example, do.

In the eighties, when the possibility of having quantum computers was a real utopia, a group of scientists began to work on its development. This is how they applied the principles of quantum physics in its construction, an idea that will allow us to enjoy faster and more accurate computers in the future.

Cirac affirms that quantum computers will not be for personal use, since the computers we currently have already serve us to check e-mail or make purchases online. In other words, in our daily life we ​​do not need to make calculations as precise as those that quantum computers would perform, although according to Juan Ignacio Cirac, at some point there may be hybrid computers, halfway between personal and quantum computers.

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The future of quantum computers

Talking about the future of the quantum computing, Cirac points out that the main challenge for these computers to become a reality centers on the susceptibility to making mistakes. The quantum bit, unlike the normal information bit, is very sensitive, so it is necessary to improve the isolation of quantum computers and to know how they can correct possible errors. Today this is the most important challenge for this type of computer to be designed and commercialized.

In addition to quantum physics applied to computing, Juan Ignacio Cirac argues that there is another revolution just around the corner: the quantum communication. This discipline is based on sending messages using phenomena that occur at the microscopic level, quantum phenomena. “It allows information to be sent from one site to another that is far away without the information passing through,” in the words of the researcher, which will ensure that no one can intercept said data and that communication is secure.

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The applications of quantum physics, both at the computer and cryptographic level, are set to change the world around us in the next decade. The work of scientists such as Juan Ignacio Cirac, whose name has been used several times for the Nobel Prize in Physics, will revolutionize the way we communicate or study the development of drugs, new materials or climate change. A hopeful future, without a doubt, in which quantum computing will be essential.

Images | University of California (Wikimedia), D-Wave Systems

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