Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UCSB researchers demonstrate that 15=3x5 about half of the time

Computing prime factors may sound like an elementary math problem, but try it with a large number, say one that contains more than 600 digits, and the task becomes enormously challenging and impossibly time-consuming.

Now, a group of researchers at UC Santa Barbara has designed and fabricated a quantum processor capable of factoring a composite number — in this case the number 15 — into its constituent prime factors, 3 and 5.

Although modest compared to a 600-digit number, the achievement represents a milestone on the road map to building a quantum computer capable of factoring much larger numbers, with significant implications for cryptography and cybersecurity. The results are published in the advance online issue of the journal Nature Physics.

"Fifteen is a small number, but what's important is we've shown that we can run a version of Peter Shor's prime factoring algorithm on a solid state quantum processor. This is really exciting and has never been done before," said Erik Lucero, the paper's lead author. Now a postdoctoral researcher in experimental quantum computing at IBM, Lucero was a doctoral student in physics at UCSB when the research was conducted and the paper was written.

"What is important is that the concepts used in factoring this small number remain the same when factoring much larger numbers," said Andrew Cleland, a professor of physics at UCSB and a collaborator on the experiment. "We just need to scale up the size of this processor to something much larger. This won't be easy, but the path forward is clear."

Practical applications motivated the research, according to Lucero, who explained that factoring very large numbers is at the heart of cybersecurity protocols, such as the most common form of encoding, known as RSA encryption. "Anytime you send a secure transmission — like your credit card information — you are relying on security that is based on the fact that it's really hard to find the prime factors of large numbers," he said. Using a classical computer and the best-known classical algorithm, factoring something like RSA Laboratory's largest published number — which contains over 600 decimal digits — would take longer than the age of the universe, he continued.

A quantum computer could reduce this wait time to a few tens of minutes. "A quantum computer can solve this problem faster than a classical computer by about 15 orders of magnitude," said Lucero. "This has widespread effect. A quantum computer will be a game changer in a lot of ways, and certainly with respect to computer security."

So, if quantum computing makes RSA encryption no longer secure, what will replace it? The answer, Lucero said, is quantum cryptography. "It's not only harder to break, but it allows you to know if someone has been eavesdropping, or listening in on your transmission. Imagine someone wiretapping your phone, but now, every time that person tries to listen in on your conversation, the audio gets jumbled. With quantum cryptography, if someone tries to extract information, it changes the system, and both the transmitter and the receiver are aware of it."

To conduct the research, Lucero and his colleagues designed and fabricated a quantum processor to map the problem of factoring the number 15 onto a purpose-built superconducting quantum circuit. "We chose the number 15 because it is the smallest composite number that satisfies the conditions appropriate to test Shor's algorithm — it is a product of two prime numbers, and it's not even," he explained.

The quantum processor was implemented using a quantum circuit composed of four superconducting phase qubits — the quantum equivalents of transistors — and five microwave resonators. The complexity of operating these nine quantum elements required building a control system that allows for precise operation and a significant degree of automation — a prototype that will facilitate scaling up to larger and more complex circuits. The research represents a significant step toward a scalable quantum architecture while meeting a benchmark for quantum computation, as well as having historical relevance for quantum information and cryptography.

"After repeating the experiment 150,000 times, we showed that our quantum processor got the right answer just under half the time" Lucero said. "The best we can expect from Shor's algorithm is to get the right answer exactly 50 percent of the time, so our results were essentially what we'd expect theoretically."

The next step, according to Lucero, is to increase the quantum coherence times and go from nine quantum elements to hundreds, then thousands, and on to millions. "Now that we know 15=3x5, we can start thinking about how to factor larger — dare I say — more practical numbers," he said.

Other UCSB researchers participating in the study include John Martinis, professor of physics; Rami Barends, Yu Chen, Matteo Mariantoni, and Y. Yin, postdoctoral fellows in physics; and physics graduate students Julian Kelly, Anthony Megrant, Peter O'Malley, Daniel Sank, Amit Vainsencher, Jim Wenner, and Ted White.

Andrea Estrada | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Significantly more productivity in USP lasers
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

nachricht Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

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: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

More VideoLinks >>>