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.
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