Microsoft’s Station Q Tackles Quantum Computing

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California lab houses Microsoft’s bid to make quantum computers

Microsoft has set up a laboratory dedicated to producing quantum computers that will push computing power to a higher level.

Station Q, based at the University of California, Santa Barbara will work on ways to construct machines with multiple quantum bits (qubits), under the leadership of Dr Michael Freedman, a mathematician and winner of the prestigious Fields Medal.

abstract processor © Edelweiss - Fotolia.comA Quantum of money

Quantum theory predicts that multiple quantum states of a given system can exist in “superposition” – as in the famous Schrodinger’s Cat paradox, where a cat is simultaneously alive and dead. By this token, a quantum computer, isolated from the rest of the world, could process multiple inputs at the same time.

For problems like database searches, or finding a solution to a problem with multiple possible states, quantum computers could be much faster than conventional systems, and one commercial start-up, D-Wave Systems, is working to create machines – having sold early models to both Google and NASA.

“Our lab combines researchers, theorists, and experimentalists from mathematics, physics, and computer science, and we partner with academic and research institutions around the globe,” says Freedman. “Quantum computing is a field of research that applies the principles of quantum physics and new directions in materials science to building a new type of computer that uses quantum effects in computation.”

Microsoft is not making any promises for concrete results from the lab. It seems that the prize is worth enough that it is worth funding some basic research in the hope of large potential benefits.

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