IBM demonstrates quantum computer using custom molecule

from the Nano-Blue dept.
IBM-Almaden researcher Isaac Chuang described his team's experiments that demonstrate what IBM claims is the world's most advanced quantum computer, which is based on a single, specially designed molecule containing five fluorine atoms. Chuang presented the results on 15 August 2000 at Stanford University at the Hot Chips 2000 conference, which is organized by the IEEE Computer Society. An IBM press release described the research; the web version contains a number of useful links to related items.

UPDATED: An article in the 26 August 2000 issue of Science News provides a useful overview of this research, a graphic of the molecule used, and links to references and resources.

From the press release:

Quantum computers operate by taking advantage of certain quantum properties of atoms or nuclei that allow them to work together as quantum bits, or "qubits," to be the computer's processor and memory.

The new IBM quantum computer contains five qubits — five fluorine atoms within a molecule specially designed so the fluorine nuclei's "spins" can interact with each other as qubits, be programmed by radiofrequency pulses and be detected by nuclear magnetic resonance instruments similar to those commonly used in hospitals and chemistry labs.

Using the molecule, Chuang's team solved in one step a mathematical problem for which conventional computers require repeated cycles. The problem is called "order-finding" — finding the period of a particular function — which is typical of many basic mathematical problems that underlie important applications such as cryptography.

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