A new photonic chip that works on light rather than electricity has been built by an international research team, paving the way for the production of ultra-fast quantum computers with capabilities far beyond today’s devices.
Jeremy O’Brien, director of the UK’s Centre for Quantum Photonics, who led the project, said many people in the field had believed a functional quantum computer would not be a reality for at least 25 years.
“However, we can say with real confidence that, using our new technique, a quantum computer could, within five years, be performing calculations that are outside the capabilities of conventional computers,” he told the British Science Festival, as he presented the research.
The breakthrough, published today in the journal Science, means data can be processed according to the counterintuitive rules of quantum physics that allow individual subatomic particles to be in several places at the same time.
This property will enable quantum computers to process information in quantities and at speeds far beyond conventional supercomputers. But formidable technical barriers must be overcome before quantum computing becomes practical.