This week we will celebrate the second theme week of the school year, which will be dedicated to quantum computing. Quantum computers work differently from the regular computers we use in our day-to-day life: they don’t work with bits that can only have a value of 0 or 1, that is, they don’t use binary programming, but instead use qubits or quantum bits.
A qubit is the smallest unit of quantum information. Because they use the fundamental principles of physics and quantum mechanics, while a classical bit can only contain one value (0 or 1), the electrons in the qubit can be both values at the same time (0 and 1), which allows to have much faster computers. Among the phenomena specific to quantum physics that quantum computers use to perform operations on data, we can find superposition and entanglement.
When an element is in superposition, it means that it can be found in different states at the same time and does not have a certain value, but has two or more simultaneously. Schrödinger’s cat is an example of superposition, since it is dead and alive at the same time. Regarding entanglement, this principle explains how two particles that interact, are related and found in superposition, can alter each other regardless of the distance between them. For example, if we have two qubits in superposition that are entangled, and we make one of the two appear as 0 or 1, the other one will take on the same value.
Because qubits can be in superposition and entangled, new logic gates and new algorithms can be used in quantum computing. There are problems that a classical computer could not solve, but a quantum computer can, since the use of qubits means that there is a greater capacity to represent information and a greater capacity to perform many operations in parallel. Quantum computers can process a huge amount of data, have much more power and can quickly solve highly complex problems.
Thus, quantum computing can be particularly useful in the field of science and innovation, for example to reduce the time it takes to discover new medicines, but also in other fields such as Cybersecurity, logistics solutions, large companies’ accounts administration, the weather forecast, among others. Despite everything, quantum computers are still in the development process. Large companies experiment with different projects to integrate them into their business in the coming years; meanwhile, IBM is working to build universal quantum computers, Microsoft gives research groups and developers the opportunity to test its quantum computing platform and Google has its own quantum artificial intelligence laboratory.