Quantum computing 'will revolutionise digital age'
on 03/09/2012 00:00:00
The result could be blindingly fast search engines, encryption systems that cannot be hacked, and computers vastly more powerful than today's.
Super-secure communication devices expected to appear in the next three years could effectively end hacking and identity theft.
In another decade, quantum computers could be outperforming their conventional counterparts. And by 2025, quantum circuits might be everywhere - sitting inside laptops and phones, helping to design new drugs and smart materials, predicting the weather accurately, and keeping bank accounts and sensitive information safe.
"It had previously been thought that a large-scale quantum computer will not become a reality for at least another 25 years," said Professor Jeremy O'Brien, director of the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol.
"However, we believe that, using our new technology, such a device, in less than 10 years, will be performing important calculations that are outside the capabilities of conventional computers."
An ordinary computer relies on logic gates, essentially switches, that are either on or off and which encode data into "bits".
But a quantum computer's switches can be on, off, or simultaneously on and off. This is possible because of quantum effects only seen at the subatomic level that appear to defy common sense.
O'Brien's team has found a way to build photon-channelling quantum circuits out of silicon, the cheap material used in computer chips. This opens up the possibility of mass-producing quantum chips that can be used alongside ordinary microelectronic components.