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First programmable quantum computer created

Ultracold beryllium ions tackle 160 randomly chosen programs

11:35am, November 23, 2009

Using a few ultracold ions, intense lasers and some electrodes, researchers have built the first programmable quantum computer. The new system, described in a paper to be published in Nature Physics, flexed its versatility by performing 160 randomly chosen processing routines.  

Earlier versions of quantum computers have been largely restricted to a narrow window of specific tasks. To be more generally useful, a quantum computer should be programmable, in the same way that a classical computer must be able to run many different programs on a single piece of machinery.

The new study is “a powerful demonstration of the technological advances towards producing a real-world quantum computer,” says quantum physicist Winfried Hensinger of the University of Sussex in Brighton, England.

Researchers led by David Hanneke of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., based their quantum computer on two beryllium io

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