Institut für Experimentalphysik
Hard Science

Primitive Quantum Computing Helps Test Theoretical Physics

It may be primitive but it's quite powerful.

Arra Dianne HifarvaJuly 4th 2016

Keep it Simple

Our current computers are not capable of running simulations of high-energy physics experiments. However, quite recently, scientists were able to use a primitive quantum computer in the simulation of the spontaneous creation of particle-antiparticle pairs. This makes it easier for physicists to further investigate the fundamental particles. A research team published their findings in the journal, Nature.

Quantum computers are not limited to the binary code bits, unlike the computers in use today. Instead, they are governed by qubits which has more states, 0, 1 and a superposition between the two. This means that more calculations can be performed simultaneously. This makes them perform much faster than today’s computers. For example, Google’s D-Wave 2 “quantum computer” is 100 million times faster than current computers. Yet experts argue that it is not a proper quantum computer.

To simulate the creation of antimatter, Austrian physicists used a primitive quantum computer that traps four ions of calcium in a row with powerful electromagnetic fields, which turn them into qubits floating in vacuum.

Scale it Up a Bit

When strategically placed laser pulses were fired at the qubits, the quantum fluctuations in energy produced allow the researchers to calculate if that energy had been converted into matter, creating electrons and positrons.

They ran several sequences of 100 steps taking just a few milliseconds each. The state of the ions were then observed using a digital camera. The location and orientation of the ions can determine if a particle or antiparticle was created in that particular spot.

The experiment is quite simple, but if it could be scaled up, it would be very useful in testing predictions of theoretical physics.The only problem is that scaling up quantum computers is an intensely complicated undertaking. We are in a primitive stage of quantum computing but these first steps will pave the way for greater research and possibility.

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