University of WA test drives quantum supercomputer

Researchers from the University of Western Australia and the University of Bristol have announced a breakthrough in supercomputing, testing an early prototype of a quantum computer.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom are currently testing an early prototype of a quantum computer.

Calling it an advancement in the new wave of supercomputers, PhD student Thomas Loke from UWA's School of Physics said the researchers worked to simulate a 'quantum walk', which enables information in the quantum computer to be manipulated and travel in many ways at the same time.

"The software I developed allowed the research team to test quantum walks and complete a complex algorithm on the computer, providing evidence that even an early prototype of the quantum computer can do more than a traditional computer," Loke said.

"Building a large-scale quantum computer is one of the biggest global engineering challenges and this research has brought us one step closer in this significant advancement for global technology."

With quantum computers still in their early stages of development, Loke said it was the first experimental implementation of his quantum codes, and that several more would follow.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) officially opened its new Centre for Quantum Computation and Communications Technology last month, where a team of researchers are racing to build the world's first quantum computer in silicon.

Well on their way to achieving their goal, a team of UNSW's engineers already unlocked the key to enabling quantum computer coding in silicon, announcing in November that the team had the capability to write and manipulate a quantum version of computer code using two quantum bits (qubits) in a silicon microchip.

According to UNSW, in achieving this breakthrough the team has removed lingering doubts that such operations can be made reliably enough to allow powerful quantum computers to become a reality.

The breakthrough followed on from an announcement made in October when another team of engineers from the university built a quantum logic gate in silicon, which made calculations between two qubits of information possible.

To advance its own research in quantum computing, The University of Sydney was awarded a slice of a multimillion dollar research grant last month from the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

UWA's Faculty of Science welcomed its Pople high-performance computing cluster to its campus in February to aid students with computational chemistry, biology, and physics, benefiting research in areas such as gravitational waves with its big data processing capabilities.

At the time, Dr Amir Karton, head of the computational chemistry lab at UWA's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said the supercomputer was placing the faculty in a unique position for supporting its advanced research.

"For example, it will be used for conducting multi-scale simulations of biochemical processes, studying gravitational waves, and simulating combustion processes which generate compounds important for seed germination," Karton said.

"Such research could have been previously carried out only on national supercomputers -- now these capabilities are accessible to any researcher in the faculty."