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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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Quantum Bits and the Future of Computing

Quantum bits or qubit is the basic unit of information in a quantum computer. Normal bits in a computer can hold the value of a zero or a one. Quantum bits use quantum properties such as superposition to store information. In other words, the quantum bits can hold the value of zero and one and all points in between at the same time, allowing quantum computers to be able to perform multiple calculations at the same time. The quantum bit is comprised of a single phosphorus atom implanted nest to a silicon transistor. The first quantum bit was made in 2012 by a research team headed by Dr. Andrea Morello and Professor Andrew Dzurak of the University of New South Wales. A quantum logic gate is a circuit built from two or more quantum bits in silicon. The first quantum logic gate was built by a team of engineers at the University of New South Wales led by Professor Andrew Dzurak in 2015. The quantum gate was the first instance in which quantum bits were utilised for computing. This advance marked the beginning of the task of building a functioning quantum computer.

Quantum computers are still in development and have a long way to go before being fully operational. Consequently, there are very few impacts on society today. That being said, quantum computing has massive potential and as the field develops, it will hugely impact just about every industry that has anything to do with computing. The transfer of confidential information from credit cards or commercial transactions and communication will be more secure and through stronger encryption methods made possible by quantum computing. Transportation will become more efficient as quantum computers will gather data on traffic. Sophisticated analysis of traffic patterns will significantly cut down travel time on the ground and in the air (Vella, 2014).  A probable future application of quantum computing is self driving cars. Time Magazine says, “Google is using a quantum computer to design software that can distinguish cars from landmarks.” (Vella, 2014). Google is currently developing and testing a quantum computer called the D-wave. They firmly believe that quantum computers may “significantly improve machine learning, the technique by which computers analyze vast troves of data to learn skills like recognizing photos, identifying spoken words, understanding natural language, and, maybe one day, mimicking common sense” (Metz, 2015).  “despite the traditional independence of computer science from physical constraints, ultimately physical laws have tremendous impact not only upon how computers are realized, but also the class of problems they are capable of solving.” (Nielson and Chuang, 2000). Google’s D-wave computer successfully simulated the energy of a hydrogen molecule (Nield, 2016). No negative impacts of quantum computing have been made clear as of yet, but there are possible future negative impacts. One possible negative impact of quantum computing is the malicious use of quantum computers in hacking, identity theft and fraud. Another possibility is quantum computers advancing machine learning until they can replace human jobs that involve calculations and pattern recognition which a computer could do more efficiently.

The research team responsible for creating the first quantum bit was led by Dr. Andrea Morello and Professor Andrew Dzurak at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology. In 2011 Morello and Dzurak were awarded the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research. Morello was also awarded the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year for 2013. Dzurak has been working on silicon qubit concepts from 1998, published over 100 scientific papers, and led the team that created the first quantum logic gate. Morello and Dzurak and their team are spearheading the research of quantum computing.

Quantum computing is the future of problem solving and will significantly change aspects of everyday life as well as have various professional applications. Current digital computers use bits as the basic unit of information, but the invention of the quantum bit changes the way computing will be approached and problems solved. The quantum bit allows more information to be stored and more calculations performed. Quantum computers are still in the very early stages and we have the privilege to experience and maybe even contribute to history being made. As the field of quantum computing expands and quantum computers become more sophisticated, things that were once unimaginable will become a reality.



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