Traditional computers, just like the everyday laptop and desktop, hold the capability to encode information in a binary format that uses the bits ‘0’ and ‘ 1.’ While calculating, the computer needs to manipulate billions of these bits according to a given set of instructions to form a single word or image. The computer repeats the process again and again at a faster pace to generate the complete output.
According to Wikipedia, the quantum computer can be described as a quantum-mechanism formula that uses superposition and entanglement to perform computation. Quantum computers completely work on different principles compared to traditional computers. The traditional or classical computers work on the concept of a lock-key structure that is open and close, called bits. On the other side, the working of quantum computers is based on interdependent and nonlinear structures called qubits.
So, one can derive that quantum computers are devices modeled working on the principle of quantum mechanics. Characterized by unprecedented processing power, quantum computers are capable of solving complex problems in a matter of seconds rather than thousands of years.
A quantum computer forms a standard computer on steroids. The functioning of the computer is carried out using a different unit of data called a “quantum bit” or a “qubit.” A qubit runs exponentially faster than a bit, allowing a quantum computer to solve a problem much more rapidly than a normal one.
Superposition and entanglement – 2 important parts of quantum computing
Let us learn in detail about the two most important methods of quantum computing -superposition and entanglement.
Qubits try to represent multiple possible combinations of 0s and 1s simultaneously. This capacity to convert into multiple states at the same time is called superposition. It is this that makes the quantum computer perform multiple calculations at once. Moreover, researchers often manipulate these calculations using precision lasers or microwave beams to lineup qubits into superposition.
Due to its counterintuitive phenomenon, a quantum computer with several qubits in superposition can process many possible outcomes at the same time. A calculation’s final result appears only after the qubits are counted, which causes their quantum state to “collapse” to either 1 or 0.
Entanglement, which theorizes that entangled particles have interdependent quantum states, is often used by quantum computers. Entanglement occurs when a quantum particle interacts with another, especially in the way of bumping into the other and forming a pair.
When this pair of particles disengages at a later point in time, each particle will still be interconnected somehow. When one particle is measured or observed, it affects the other particle, even though a considerable distance separates them.
According to experts, entanglement in quantum computing can affect the design of algorithms that can solve complex problems. Entanglement allows qubits to be correlated, which means that users only need to adjust one qubit to affect all qubits in a system with no extra effort. Entanglement could also create lags, which may occur with binary computers when too many programs run simultaneously.
Quantum computers use entangled qubits in a quantum daisy chain to spark up magic. The machines’ ability to speed up calculations using specially built quantum algorithms is one of the reasons for their widespread interest. This is the good side of the concept. At the same time, the other side of the concept states that quantum machines are way more error-prone than classical computers because of the decoherence.
So, to understand decoherence – Decoherence is described as the interaction of qubits with their environment in a manner that their quantum behavior decays and eventually vanishes. Their quantum state is in jeopardy.
Even a small change in temperature or any form of vibration can cause disturbance known as ‘noise’ in quantum speak. This causes the particles to tumble out of superposition before the process gets completed. This is the reason why researchers put forward their best to protect qubits from outsiders in the supercooled fridges and vacuum chambers.
Even after giving their 100%, there is still an area for noise to creep into the calculations and cause errors. The problem can be compensated with the help of a smart quantum algorithm, and adding more qubits can help. And more of it, it takes thousands of standard qubits to create a single, highly reliable one called a ‘logical’ qubit. However, this will take a lot of energy from a quantum computer’s computational capacity.
So far, researchers have not been able to generate more than 128 standard qubits. This infers that it may take a longer time to generate quantum computers that will be used on a large scale.
Learning about quantum supremacy
A point where a quantum computer completes a mathematical calculation which even the most powerful supercomputers cannot demonstrate is explained as ‘quantum supremacy.’
However, scientists are still not clear on what number of qubits will be required to achieve it as they keep on devising new algorithms that push the performance of classical machines, and supercomputing hardware keeps on improving.
Researchers and companies are not losing hope and working hard by running a hard test against some of the most powerful supercomputers all over the world to claim the title.
Many are still trying to find an answer for ‘how significant achieving this milestone would be?’ IBM, Rigetti, and a Canadian firm named D-Wave have already started experimenting with quantum computers and not waiting for any supremacy to be declared.
To my surprise, some organizations have already started buying quantum computers, while others are trying to use those computers made available through cloud computing services.
The best application of quantum computers will be simulating the behavior of matter at the molecular level.
Volkswagen and Daimler are some of the auto manufacturers that are already using quantum computers to simulate the chemical composition of electric-vehicle batteries to find a new means to improve their performance. While pharmaceutical companies are utilizing it to analyze and compare compounds that would help create new drugs.
Quantum computers can turn out to be the best solution in optimization problems as they can calculate multiple potential solutions extremely fast. For example, Airbus is using it to calculate the most fuel-efficient ascent and descent paths for aircraft, while Volkswagen implements it to calculates the optimal routes for buses and taxis in cities that would help to minimize congestion.
Quantum computers would require a longer time to reach their full potential. Various businesses and universities are already working on it, but the unavailability of skilled researchers and lack of suppliers of some key components make it difficult.
Undoubtedly, if such exotic new computing machines keep developing, these machines will be the reason for the transformation of industries and turbocharge global innovation.
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