You can now own a quantum computer in your home.
A startup based in Shenzhen, China, called SpinQ has unveiled a quantum computer that can fit on a desk — and it costs less than $5,000, as Discover Magazine reports.
That's only a tiny fraction of the price tag of powerful quantum computers that have come before it, including D-Wave's first commercially available quantum computer system that cost around $10 million when it went on sale in 2011. It may be a sign of things to come in the world of quantum computing — or it could be an impractical dead end for wealthy hobbyists.
The hefty 121 pound desktop computer is a scaled down version of the kind of quantum computers found at research institutions and universities, according to Discover. It can process just two qubits, the basic unit of quantum information that is the equivalent of the ones and zeros, or bits, used by a conventional computer.
Despite the simplified approach, SpinQ's computer can still complete some basic quantum calculations once hooked up to a conventional computer, the company says, for instance allowing it to search through databases far more quickly.
SpinQ's computer relies on nuclear magnetic resonance, the process of trapping molecules in powerful magnetic fields and blasting them with pulses of radio frequencies to change the spin state of their individual atoms.
Each pulse gives the atoms a new state, according to Discover, the rough equivalent of going from zero to one or vice versa in a conventional computer. These changes in spin can then change the spin of other neighboring atoms, allowing it to simulate mathematical operations.
Rather than using supercooled superconducting magnets, the SpinQ uses permanent magnets, which can still produce powerful magnetic fields.
That approach to quantum computing has been around since at least the 1990s, according to Discover, when it was used in medical imagery. It does however come with its limitations and will never be able to match the computing power of much larger quantum computers.
READ MORE: A Desktop Quantum Computer for Just $5,000 [Discover Magazine]
More on quantum computers: Researchers Achieve First “Sustained” Long Distance Quantum Teleportation