Discovery may simplify quantum computer development

Scientists uncover phenomenon that may unlock quantum computing's potential

Researcher Helen Chrzanowski operates an experiment at The Australian National University that unlocks quantum discord in pairs of laser beams.

Researcher Helen Chrzanowski operates an experiment at The Australian National University that unlocks quantum discord in pairs of laser beams.

Researchers at three universities are hoping that a recent discovery will simplify and potentially speed up the development of high-powered quantum computers in the future.

In a paper published today in Nature Physics, researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Queensland suggested that background interference in quantum-level measurements may be the key to unlocking quantum computing’s potential. This interference is known as “quantum discord”.

Researchers have previously believed that “quantum entanglement” – where sub-atomic particles become so entwined that they share the same properties even when they have been separated – was the only way to realise quantum technologies.

Professor Ping Koy Lam of ANU’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences told CIO this paper demonstrated that perhaps researchers can relax the requirement to use entanglement – one of the most difficult properties of the quantum world to tame – to develop quantum technology.

He suggested that researchers would continue to pursue examples of the potential of quantum discord – a more robust and easy-to-access phenomenon than quantum entanglement – to develop quantum technology.

“In the long term, we want to have a revised understanding of what makes a quantum computer tick,” said Professor Lam. “The hope is that we can simplify how quantum computers work and [make them] more accessible.”

Scientists at the National University of Singapore first discovered the direct link between quantum power and quantum discord. Scientists at ANU then encoded information onto laser light to demonstrate the unlocking of this quantum resource.

Quantum discord was previously shown to be present in many systems but may have been characterised as unwanted noise.

“This has made some scientists sceptical that it could be useful, but these results show that discord has potential that can be unlocked for quantum technologies,” said Professor Lam.

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