First practical blueprint for universal quantum computer could have revolutionary impact

Supplementary content information

Professor Hensinger (right) and Dr Lekitsch (left) with a quantum computer blueprint model

Researchers led by a scientist at the University of Sussex have revealed the first practical blueprint for a universal quantum computer that could have a revolutionary impact on technology and the wider world.

The work of the team led by Professor Winfried Hensinger, which has been published in the journal Science Advances and generated widespread media interest, could pave the way for creating a large-scale machine capable of solving problems that could take billions of years for a classical computer to compute.

The team’s work has been supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the UK Quantum Technology Hub on Networked Quantum Information Technologies, and the Government-backed UK National Quantum Technology Programme.

The new computer will, once built, have the potential for widespread applications, from creating new lifesaving medicines to solving previously unsolvable scientific problems and probing the outer reaches of space.

The blueprint, which is the work of a team involving scientists from Sussex, Google (USA), Aarhus University (Denmark), RIKEN (Japan) and Siegen University (Germany), features connections created by electric fields that allow charge atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another, allowing connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules that are 100,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art fibre link technology. The team will now construct a prototype based on their blueprint, at the university.

Professor Hensinger, who is head of the Ion Quantum Technology Group at Sussex, said: “For many years, people said that it was completely impossible to construct an actual quantum computer. With our work we have not only shown that it can be done but now we are delivering a nuts and bolts construction plan to build an actual large-scale machine.

“The availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society as a whole. Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK’s strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen.”

Project lead author Dr Bjoern Lekitsch, also from the University of Sussex, said: “It was most important to us to highlight the substantial technical challenges as well as to provide practical engineering solutions.”

Reference: PN 08-17