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Superfast computers takes quantum leap

A new test for quantum computers could help the superfast powerful devices become commonplace.

Edinburgh scientists have helped develop a technique that overcomes the problem of how to test a computer that is faster and more powerful than anything else available.

Researchers have devised a system in which simple test calculations can be incorporated into more complex problems typical of those being tackled by such powerful technology.

Checking accuracy

To harness properly the potential of quantum computing, we need to know for sure that it works.

Dr Elham KashefiSchool of Informatics

To test their theory, scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Vienna and Singapore University of Technology and Design were able to use short computations, for which the answers were known, to verify the accuracy of a small quantum computer.

The data used was encrypted into tiny particles of light known as photons, so that the true data could not be read by the quantum computer’s server.

In this way, the test could be employed without risk of sensitive data being revealed.

Computing power

Quantum computing is an emerging technology in which data is stored using sub-atomic particles known as qubits, instead of silicon chips used in conventional machines.

Silicon chips store data in binary code - a series of ones and zeros - while qubits represent a range of values simultaneously, enabling fast, powerful calculation.

Such machines could have applications where large, complex calculations need to be carried out quickly and securely.

The study was published in Nature Physics.

Our approach in testing quantum machines is effective, which is a big step forward in developing these superfast, sophisticated devices.

Dr Elham KashefiSchool of Informatics