Computer chips could soon be using light rather than electricity, setting the stage for the introduction of a new technology that could be the foundation for IT industries and U.S. defense and intelligence agencies concerned with national security issues.
An international research team has developed a new photonic chip that works on light rather than electricity to be used in quantum computers, a big step up from today’s PCs, Science reports. These advanced computers will be able to draw crucial information from the largest databases almost instantaneously. As the amount of digital data stored worldwide grows, the technology will facilitate the process of finding information.
Jeremy O’Brien, who heads UK’s Centre for Quantum Photonics and led the project, said it was widely believed a quantum computer would not be a reality for at least 25 years. However, now with the new technique, a quantum computer could within five years do calculations conventional computers are not able to.
But what is the incentive for building–and using–quantum computers? For one, quantum participles are multitaskers: They can do many things simultaneously, unlike an electronic “bit” in conventional computing. Using quantum particles would allow parallel computing that is not possible with today’s conventional electronics.
The recent breakthrough means data can be processed according to the counterintuitive rules of quantum physics, allowing individual subatomic particles to be in several places at the same time, according to Financial Times. This means quantum computers would be able to process information in quantities and at speeds far beyond today’s supercomputers.
Although it is unlikely these super-advanced computers would replace conventional CPUs anytime soon, quantum computing has caught the attention of governments and companies all over the world and made them invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the field. U.S. defense and intelligence agencies, as well as governments see quantum electronics as the foundation for IT industries in the mid-21st century, according to Financial Times.