Science 3 min read

New Quantum Physics Level Unlocked: Controllable Qubits

An international team of researchers led by Rainier Blatt successfully entangled 20 individually controllable qubits in an experiment detailed in the journal Physical Review X.

Quantum processors will likely be untouchable for a while. | graphicINmotion  | Shutterstock.com

Quantum processors will likely be untouchable for a while. | graphicINmotion | Shutterstock.com

Physicists have just broken the entanglement record by creating a quantum register made of 20 entangled and controllable qubits.

Quantum entanglement is one of the most studied processes by physicists for its wide range of theoretical applications. To have an operational quantum computer, we need a large number of entangled particles (qubits) that are inherently linked. In other words, we need controllable qubits.

Now, a team of German and Austrian physicists has achieved a quantum milestone in that regard.

Read More: Is our Consciousness a Quantum System?

Multi-Particle Entangled Systems

Qubits are to quantum computing what bits are to classical computing.

Future quantum infrastructures will need large numbers of entangled qubits so superposition and other quantum magic can take place.

Combining controllable qubits in a stable quantum arrangement, or register, is a more arduous technical task than what it might sound.

To name a few of the technical hurdles that come with building an operational quantum system, qubits need to be in a completely isolated environment and at a temperature near absolute zero.

In 2011, Rainer Blatt and his lab team at the University of Innsbruck managed to put 14 qubits in an entangled state.

Now, Prof. Blatt and his team are back. Along with other collaborating physicists from the universities of Vienna and Ulm, the team hopes to break their own record.

Thus, the research team created a 20-Qubit entanglement for the first time.

The researchers used 20 calcium ions arranged in a line as qubits and entangled them with laser beams.

Each of the calcium atoms was shown to be able to entangle with up to four other qubits in the register.

Read More: Quantum Infrastructure: How Close are we to Quantum Devices?

Record-Breaking Entangled System With 20 Individually Controllable Qubits

Multi-particle entanglement has been done before by the same team and other researchers.

However, what differentiates this experiment, apart from the number of entangled qubits in the system, is that researchers were able to control each qubit individually.

 “There are quantum systems such as ultra-cold gases in which entanglement between a large number of particles has been detected,” Friis said Nicolai Friis, lead author of the study. “However, the Innsbruck experiment is able to address and read out every single quantum bit individually.”

Friis’ last sentences shed some light on the current state of quantum computers.

Major tech companies pursuing quantum supremacy are touting quantum chips with way more qubits, like IBM’s 50-qubit chip Google’s 72-qubit system, Bristlecone.

D-Wave Systems claims to have to the world’s most powerful quantum computer running on a 2000 Q processor!

In all these systems, unlike the present 20-qubit system, qubits can’t be controlled and read individually.

How researchers built a quantum system of 20 individually controllable qubits was the subject of their experiment. They explain in detail in the journal Physical Review X.

Above all, this spells a new approach in the realm of quantum infrastructures. Now, the aim will be to build smarter, not bigger.

Have you had a chance to run an algorithm on IBM’s free-to-the-public 5 qubit computer? Try it out here.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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