Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


NIST demonstrates key step in use of quantum computers for code-breaking


This colorized image shows the fluorescence from three trapped beryllium ions illuminated with an ultraviolet laser beam. Black and blue areas indicate lower intensity, and red and white higher intensity. Credit: NIST

A crucial step in a procedure that could enable future quantum computers to break today’s most commonly used encryption codes has been demonstrated by physicists at the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

As reported in the May 13 issue of the journal Science,* the NIST team showed that it is possible to identify repeating patterns in quantum information stored in ions (charged atoms). The NIST work used three ions as quantum bits (qubits) to represent 1s or 0s--or, under the unusual rules of quantum physics, both 1 and 0 at the same time.

Scientists believe that much larger arrays of such ions could process data in a powerful quantum computer. Previous demonstrations of similar processes were performed with qubits made of molecules in a liquid, a system that cannot be expanded to large numbers of qubits. "Our demonstration is important, because it helps pave the way toward building a large-scale quantum computer," says John Chiaverini, lead author of the paper. "Our approach also requires fewer steps and is more efficient than those demonstrated previously."

The NIST team used electromagnetically trapped beryllium ions as qubits to demonstrate a quantum version of the "Fourier transform" process, a widely used method for finding repeating patterns in data. The quantum version is the crucial final step in Shor’s algorithm, a series of steps for finding the "prime factors" of large numbers--the prime numbers that when multiplied together produce a given number.

Developed by Peter Shor of Bell Labs in 1994, the factoring algorithm sparked burgeoning interest in quantum computing. Modern cryptography techniques, which rely on the fact that even the fastest supercomputers require very long times to factor large numbers, are used to encode everything from military communications to bank transactions. But a quantum computer using Shor’s algorithm could factor a number several hundred digits long in a reasonably short time. This algorithm made code breaking the most important application for quantum computing.

Quantum computing, which harnesses the unusual behavior of quantum systems, offers the possibility of parallel processing on a grand scale. Unlike switches that are either fully on or fully off in today’s computer chips, quantum bits can be on, off, or on and off at the same time. The availability of such "superpositions," in addition to other strange quantum properties, means that a quantum computer could solve certain problems in an exponentially shorter time than a conventional computer with the same number of bits. Researchers often point out that, for specific classes of problems, a quantum computer with 300 qubits has potentially more processing power than a classical computer containing as many bits as there are particles in the universe.

Harnessing all this potential for practical use is extremely difficult. One problem is that measuring a qubit causes its delicate quantum state to collapse, producing an output of an ordinary 1 or 0, without a record of what happened during the computation. Nevertheless, Shor’s algorithm uses these properties to perform a useful task. It enables scientists to analyze the final quantum state after the computation to find repeating patterns in the original input, and to use this information to determine the prime factors of a number.

The work described in the Science paper demonstrated the pattern-finding step of Shor’s algorithm. This demonstration involves fewer and simpler operations than those previously implemented, a significant benefit in designing practical quantum computers.

In the experiments, NIST researchers performed the same series of operations on a set of three beryllium qubits thousands of times. Each set of operations lasted less than 4 milliseconds, and consisted of using ultraviolet laser pulses to manipulate individual ions in sequence, based on measurements of the other ions. Each run produced an output consisting of measurements of each of the three ions. The NIST team has the capability to measure ions’ quantum states precisely and use the results to manipulate other ions in a controlled way, before the delicate quantum information is lost.

The same NIST team has previously demonstrated all the basic components for a quantum computer using ions as qubits, arguably a leading candidate for a large-scale quantum processor. About a dozen different types of quantum systems are under investigation around the world for use in quantum processing, including the approach of using ions as qubits.

Laura Ost | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>