Superconducting quantum computers are huge and incredibly finicky machines at this point. They need to be isolated from anything that might knock an e

Quantum computing hits the desktop, no cryo-cooling required

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2021-09-28 15:30:10

Superconducting quantum computers are huge and incredibly finicky machines at this point. They need to be isolated from anything that might knock an electron's spin off and ruin a calculation. That includes mechanical isolation, in extreme vacuum chambers, where only a few molecules might remain in a cubic meter or two of space. It includes electromagnetic forces – IBM, for example, surrounds its precious quantum bits, or qubits, with mu metals to absorb all magnetic fields.

And it includes temperature. Any atom with a temperature above absolute zero is by definition in a state of vibration, and any temperature more than 10-15 thousandths of a degree above absolute zero simply shakes the qubits to the poin where they can't maintain "coherence." So most state-of-the-art quantum computers need to be cryogenically cooled using complex and expensive equipment before the qubits will maintain their state for any length of time and become useful.

Extreme vacuums, mu metals and microkelvin-temperature cryogenic cooling: this is not a recipe for affordable, portable or easily scalable quantum computing power. But an Australian-born startup says it has developed a quantum microprocessor that needs none of these things. Indeed, it runs happily at room temperature. Right now, it's the size of a rack unit. Soon, it'll be the size of a decent graphics card, and before too long it'll be small enough to fit in mobile devices alongside traditional processors.

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