Google to build quantum computing processors

Google will work with UC Santa Barbara to push quantum computing forward

Physicists at UC Santa Barbara, including John Martinis, second from right, will work with Google to build quantum processors

Physicists at UC Santa Barbara, including John Martinis, second from right, will work with Google to build quantum processors

Google has partnered with scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara to build new processors for use in quantum computing systems.

Quantum computers aim to use properties of subatomic particles to perform calculations millions of times faster than conventional computers, although there are lots of obstacles to overcome for that to happen.

Google's Quantum Artificial Intelligence team will work with researchers at UC Santa Barbara to build new quantum information processors to help make quantum computers a reality.

Today's computers use electrical transistors to represent the ones and zeros of binary computing, but quantum computers will use qubits, or quantum bits, which rely on laws of quantum mechanics to achieve various states.

And while a transistor can only be in one of two states -- on or off, representing a 1 or a 0 -- quantum bits can hold multiple states simultaneously, meaning they can be a 1 or a 0, or both at the same time. That could allow them to perform multiple calculations in parallel, vastly increasing their processing power.

Qubits are also highly unstable, however, and can alter their state at the tiniest change in temperature or magnetism. Physicists at UC Barbara are on the forefront of trying to solve those problems, so it's easy to see why Google wants to work with them.

The two groups will work on processors based on superconducting electronics, Google said in a blog post. That involves cooling materials to a point near absolute freezing where electrical resistance and magnetic fields are minimized.

Microsoft is also researching quantum computing and published a paper and a video recently that explain in plain English how it works.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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