Analog Simulators Could Be Shortcut to Universal Quantum Computers

Quantum computing pioneer Ivan H. Deutsch explains why analog quantum simulators may beat out general-purpose digital quantum machines for now

In 1995, Ivan H. Deutsch joined the physics faculty at the University of New Mexico, where he works on unclassified ways to control quantum bits at the Center for Quantum Information and Control. He specializes in devising methods for using electromagnetic fields to store quantum information in the electrons and nuclei of ultra-cold atoms caught in magneto-optical traps.
Credit: Ivan H. Deutsch
For more than 20 years, Ivan Deutsch has struggled to design the guts of a working quantum computer. He has not been alone. The quest to harness the computational might of quantum weirdness continues to occupy thousands of researchers around the world. Why hasn’t there been more to show for their work? As physicists have known since quantum computing’s beginnings, the same characteristics that make quantum computing exponentially powerful also make it devilishly difficult to control. The quantum computing “nightmare” has always been that a quantum computer’s advantages in speed would be wiped out by the machine’s complexity.

Yet progress is arriving on two main fronts. First, researchers are developing unique quantum error-correction techniques that will help keep quantum processors up and running for the time needed to complete a calculation. Second, physicists are working with so-called analog quantum simulators—machines that can’t act like a general-purpose computer, but rather are designed to explore specific problems in quantum physics. A classical computer would have to run for thousands of years to compute the quantum equations of motion for just 100 atoms. A quantum simulator could do it in less than a second.

Quanta magazine spoke with Deutsch about recent progress in the field, his hopes for the near future, and his own work on scaling up binary quantum bits into base-16 digits.

From Quanta Magazine (find original story here).