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Quantum computers have the potential to offer substantial boosts in performance over conventional computing, however, until now, progress to creating commercially useful machines has been slow.

Traditional computing uses basic units of information called ‘bits’ which are stored as 1s and 0s, whereas the equivalent quantum units are known as ‘qubits’, these can both be 1s and 0s simultaneously. This, in theory, can provide much greater computational power.

However, in reality, quantum information is delicate and such systems are liable to errors in calculations, caused by interfering factors, such as heat, electromagnetic radiation and defects in materials.It is the control and prevention of such errors that is one of the biggest challenges for scientists attempting to harness the power of quantum computing.

But now, scientists from IBM’s Watson Research Centre have been able to demonstrate a new method in correcting the errors with success. The details are published in the Nature Communication journal.

The IBM team were able to detect and measure two key types of error, known as ‘bit-flip’ and ‘phase-flip’. Jay Gambetta, Co-author, commented,

“Up until now, researchers have been able to detect bit-flip or phase-flip quantum errors, but never the two together.”

The team’s error-protecting protocols were demonstrated on a quantum circuit of a chip roughly one-quarter inch square, consisting a square lattice of four superconducting qubits.

It is claimed, by IBM, that due to the square based design, the circuit is more scalable than the linear arrays that have previously been used by other groups.

According to Prof Alan Woodward, computing expert from the University of Surry, this works represents a “significant evolution” and step forward in quantum computing. He told BBC News,

“We all know that error correction is very important in quantum computing because of the inherent errors that are caused by the way qubits tend to operate, but this isn’t the first time it’s been addressed.

“What we’re seeing is the move from the drawing board to actual implementation […] This is the first time we have seen groups actually implementing real hardware which is then proven experimentally to have significant error correction properties.”

But, IBM are not the only team working to bring quantum computing into the commercial arena, for example n American team of physicists published a separate protocol for quantum-error detection just last month.

“Which architecture, if any, actually wins out remains to be seen. Each has pros and cons but at the moment there isn’t really an obvious winner” added Woodward.

He said the “dark horse in the race” was topological quantum computing, an architecture that is intrinsically more fault-tolerant. A team at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been working on this method, and is being backed in its efforts by Microsoft.

Source: BBC News[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]