Tech It Out: What’s Under The Hood Of A Quantum Computer?

But a quantum computer can go down all the paths at once. That’s what makes a quantum computer exponentially mightier than a classical computer.

Tech It Out: What's under the hood of a quantum computer?

By Dong Yi

Leading scientists have been seeking a new holy grail – “quantum supremacy.” The term “quantum supremacy” does not indicate any technological superiority of one country over another, but rather the enormous computing advantage of quantum computers over classical computers, the latter can vary from the office laptop you type on to those supercomputers that require an entire building to house.

The basic computing increment inside a classical computer is called a “bit,” which is based on a binary system that is either 0 or 1. These 0s and 1s constitute the basic bits.

A classical computer can only generate one of these eight values at a time: 000, 010, 001, 011, 110, 100, 101 or 111. Similar to a classical computer, a quantum computer has basic unit of data called a “qubit” or “quantum bit.” The qubits can represent numerous possible combinations of 1 and 0 at the same time. This is known as superposition in quantum mechanics.

That’s to say, if you ask a normal computer to figure its way out of a maze, it will try every single route in turn. But a quantum computer can go down all the paths at once. That’s what makes a quantum computer exponentially mightier than a classical computer.

This is how quantum computing works: A command, which is coded by binary bits, is sent from a classical computer to an electronic converter, where it is turned into microwave signal.

This messenger is shot into a quantum device, where it winds its way down through its entire structure and gradually cooled down to the temperature that’s needed. At long last, the messenger reaches the very bottom of the device, where the computing magic actually happens.

The core of a quantum computer is actually just a tiny little chipset, about 1 centimeter in diameter. The chip is where electron, or qubits, are waiting. They received the command and start to communicate with each other to get a computing result. That result is sent out of the device again in the form of microwave signal. It is decoded by a classical computer into a straightforward answer that people prefer.

Quantum computers are not only much more powerful than their classical counterparts, they are also capable of certain tasks impossible for any classical computer to take on, like simulating large atomic and molecular activities in chemical reactions or cracking enigmatic encrypted data.

Critics have been reminding us that this next-gen technology has yet to solve any of our real-life problems. But that may be changing in the next 10 years. With the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic’s announcement that it will soon invest in an IBM quantum computer for its future clinical studies, we could be on the verge of a major medical and pharmaceutical breakthrough.

Originally published at Cgtn

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