Quantum computing will change our world. But currently, it’s just about impossible. Qubits, the bits that power quantum computing, require crazy-cold temps to create, and they only survive about three minutes at room temp. Now, a research team has made room-temp qubits last for 39 minutes. That’s monumental.
Right now, quantum computing is limited by the fact that qubits are so difficult to produce. Unlike regular bits, which have a value of either one or zero, qubits sit in a state of superposition, both one and zero at the same time. This highly-unstable state can be achieved at temperatures near absolute zero (−273.15°C), but degrades quickly at normal temps. And trying to operate a computer at more than 270°C below zero is, uh, rather impractical.
So these findings, published in this week’s Science, are pretty impressive: at -268°C, the researchers were able to create qubits from a novel material that survived for three hours. More importantly, they were able to bring them to room temperature for 39 minutes without destroying their quantum state. Since all the qubits were in the same quantum state, they couldn’t be used for computing — a functional quantum computer would operate based on different states between qubits. But this is a huge step toward making quantum computing a reality, and not just a shockingly cold one.
Image: Stef Simmons