We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Quicker Quantum Boot-Up

New algorithm helps these experimental computers start within minutes.

By Shannon Palus
Nov 26, 2014 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 4:30 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Quantum computers — machines that make use of the strange properties of the subatomic realm — will be versatile and powerful, scientists hope, but today’s versions take a painstaking six hours to boot up. Fortunately, in June, physicists at Germany’s Saarland University reported in Physical Review Letters that they had devised a way to boot up experimental quantum chips within minutes, almost as quickly as a desktop computer.

Booting up took so long because quantum computer chips are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, air pressure and electromagnetic interference, and each day researchers had to spend hours tuning the chips by hand. The trick was to come up with an algorithm that can systematically tune a quantum chip in just five minutes. The method should work for tomorrow’s quantum computers, but for now, the algorithm, called Ad-HOC, will speed research by giving physicists more time to explore the nascent technology.

From Qubits to Gadgets

A new type of laser created by Dartmouth physicists could one day translate the photon-speak of quantum chips into signals that other gadgets — say, a computer screen — can understand. The laser’s circuitry is made of the same superconducting material used in many quantum chips. This allows the quantum information to be encoded as particles of light, which could send a signal to another device.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.