The fundamental memory component of a quantum computer has been built for the first time using a string of atoms. This could offer a more reliable way to build a working quantum computer than other techniques, suggest researchers.
Quantum computers exploit the quantum properties of matter to perform calculations. While conventional computers use binary digits – or bits of information – in the form of electrical charge, quantum computers use quantum bits, called qubits.
And because particles can be in several states at once, qubits would allow huge numbers of computations to be carried out simultaneously – beyond the capabilities of a conventional supercomputer.
Dominik Schrader and colleagues at the University of Bonn in Germany have now built the fundamental memory component of a computer – called a register – using caesium atoms, which are slowed down and trapped inside a laser beam.
By carrying out certain simple operations – like comparing the bits in one register to those in another, or flipping certain bits from ‘0’ to ‘1’ – a computer can carry out simple computations. More complex computations are built from many of these basic operations.