What are Quantum Computers?
Quantum computers are computers which use quantum mechanical phenomena, like superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. The originator of the quantum computer theory about twenty years ago was Paul Benioff, a physicist with ANL, or Argonne National Laboratory. He used the Turing machine concept as the basis for this type of computer. The Turing machine is comprised a tape of a length that was indefinite, divided into squares that are evenly sized. A device with the capabilities of reading the symbols and blanks within the tape gives instructions towards a machine to perform a certain program.
The underlying theory of quantum computers is their using quantum particles in place of the tape, when used in the Turing research. The binary digits are made present through a blank or symbol in the Turing tape, so the status of the quantum particles are used to hold on to these values. The utilization of various quantum particles means the quantum computer is much faster when compared to the Turing machine due to it performing several calculations. Current computers use the two state basic bit, the states being either zero or one.
Quantum computers will be able to store information in quantum bits, which hold in excess of two values. The ability of these ‘qubits’ to exist in two or more states means that quantum computers have the ability of performing in excess of a million computations simultaneously at any one time, as well as holding the potential to be much faster and more powerful than current supercomputers. A critical component of quantum particles that will be used by quantum computers will be entanglement. The entanglement property will make it possible to determine and assign the spin value of quantum particles through the introduction of outside forces.
Quantum computer research is still in the research stage, so these computers are far from being viable. Up to this point, researchers have not been successful at manipulating seven qubits or more when solving mathematical problems.
The two examples of developments to this end include the August 2000 experiment by IBM researchers. The experiment turned out successful, as it solved a complex mathematical problem named order finding within one step, feat current computers achieve in repeated cycles. Order finding determines a function’s period. The second developments were an experiment at the National Laboratory in Los Alamos. The digital computer’s encoding process was mimicked by using electromagnetic pulses application in lining up particles using NMR.