Quantum Computer Becoming Reality


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A billion-dollar research effort will make Sweden a world leader in quantum technology. Now, Chalmers researchers have begun work on developing a quantum computer with far greater computational power than today's best supercomputers.​

The days are currently full of interviews. Per Delsing, Professor of quantum device physics at Chalmers, is busy recruiting high-level researchers and doctoral students to help pull through a very challenging project: building a quantum computer that far exceeds today's best computers.

"To get the right staff is the alpha and omega of it all. But it looks promising, we have received many good applications", says Per Delsing.

The development of the quantum computer is the main project in the ten-year research program Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology, launched at the turn of the year, thanks to a donation of SEK 600 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. With additional funds from Chalmers, industry and other universities, the total budget is landing nearly SEK 1 billion.

The goal is to make Sweden a leading player in quantum technology. Indeed, recent research in quantum technology has placed the world on the verge of a new technology revolution – the second quantum revolution.

​The first quantum revolution took place in the 20th century, when one learned to utilize quantum mechanical properties of light and material. This led, among other things, to the laser and transistor – inventions that underpin information technology that largely shape today's society.

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​Per Delsing and PhD Ida-Maria Svensson in the lab. In the white cylinder, the cryostat, there are extremely cooled quantum bits whose lifetime the researchers are measuring. Photo: Johan Bodell

Now scientists have also learned to control individual quantum systems as individual atoms, electrons and photons, which opens up new opportunities. In sight, there are extremely fast quantum computers, interception-proof communication and hyper-sensitive measurement methods.

Interest is big worldwide. Decision makers and business leaders begin to realize that quantum technology has the potential to greatly change our society, for instance through improved artificial intelligence, secure encryption and more effective design of drugs and materials. Several countries are investing heavily and the EU is launching a scientific flagship in the area next year.

"If Sweden will continue to be a top level nation, we must be at the forefront here", says Peter Wallenberg Jr.

Several universities and major computer companies, like Google and IBM, are aiming to try to build a quantum computer. The smallest building block of the quantum computer – the quantum bit – is based on completely different principles than today's computers (see graphic). This means that you can handle huge amounts of information with relatively few quantum bits. To surpass the computational power of today's supercomputers, it's enough with 50-60 quantum bits. The Chalmers researchers aim at reaching at least one hundred quantum bits within ten years.

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