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Technology

A Quantum Machine That's Fully Programmable

The secret: an ion trap.

By Stephen OrnesDecember 19, 2016 10:37 PM
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An ion trap captures charged particles in a quantum machine, helping it to run any algorithm, or sequential steps, using 5 qubits. | S. Debnath and E. Edwards/Joint Quantum Institute

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A small but mighty quantum computer was debuted in August by physicists at the University of Maryland. Unlike other quantum devices, this one is fully programmable, a significant step toward general use of quantum machines. Ions trapped by electric fields and controlled via laser enable the device to run any algorithm, or sequential operation of steps, using 5 qubits. “This system was built so that it could be scaled up,” says physicist Chris Monroe, whose team is adding qubits to the device. The scale-up has no clear limit, he adds.

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