2009 Science News of the Year: Matter & Energy | Science News

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2009 Science News of the Year: Matter & Energy

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5:02pm, December 18, 2009

First programmable quantum computer
Ultracold beryllium ions are at the heart of the first programmable quantum computer, an advance that brings scientists closer to harnessing the power of quantum systems for general computing. The new system, researchers report in Nature Physics, flexed its versatility by performing 160 randomly chosen processing routines (SN: 12/19/09, p. 13). 

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., based their quantum computer on two beryllium ions chilled to just above absolute zero. These ions, trapped by an electromagnetic field on a gold-plated alumina chip, formed the quantum bits, or qubits, analogous to the bits in regular computers represented by 0s and 1s. Short laser bursts manipulated the beryllium ions to perform the processing operations, while nearby magnesium ions kept the beryllium ions cool

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