Group of Quantum Computer Researchers Discover the Power of Friendship!

It seems that the past years of rigorous academic research could have benefited from a little heart-to-heart with a colleague.

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By Aki Kankaanpää | 8.12.2023

Some call it a miracle, others call it progress, I call it news-worthy! A group of  researchers funded by the National Science Foundation released their findings of a meta-analysis conducted on the current issues faced by scientists working to develop quantum computers. Their paper concluded that the solution to the most relevant issue hindering technological advancement was something hiding under their noses all along – collaboration!

To the uninitiated, quantum computing refers to the idea of harnessing the power of the multi-potentiality of particles (said to be in a quantum state) to replace the standard computer, which until now have worked with ones and zeroes. Instead of computers depending on a network of millions of ON (one) and OFF (zero) switches, a quantum computer would be built from a material which can change its molecular state depending on the needed function, instead of just ON/OFF, it could contain a MAYBE/PARTIALLY ON/MOSTLY OFF, and so forth. This would cut down energy consumption and improve computer speeds, as a single calculation could perform the work of several ON/OFF-switches.

Thus far the biggest reason, why all of us are not reading this post on our quantum computers, has been the lack of materials capable of being potential quantum computer circuits. The research group, led by Nathalie P. de Leon, concluded that in order to tackle this ongoing material challenge of actualizing quantum computing, the field-to-field collaboration must be expanded to also consider the voices of material scientists as well. While these findings may seem obvious to some, the fact that researchers have finally figured out that science is a collaborative effort are astronomical (by research standards) as the current difficulties and challenges faced by researchers seeking to develop quantum computers could be solved via collaboration with material science, which has thus far been a dismissed field of research.

For anyone pondering, what led these researchers to discover the power of collaborative effort, the research paper the group published states that their conclusion was drawn from the observation, that current leading research in the field of material science, namely in the area of semiconductor electronics, are seemingly directly applicable to the field of quantum computing. Thus, the previous ignored collaboration could help tackle technical challenges of quantum computing. – How marvelous!

In their own words: “Quantum computing began as a fundamentally interdisciplinary effort involving computer science, information science, and quantum physics; the time is now ripe for expanding the field by including new collaborations and partnerships with materials science.” While the time has been ripe for most of us for years, we can now let out a sigh of relief that scientists have caught up!

Optimistically such findings and growth from researchers could lead to a paradigm shift in the development of quantum computers. Perhaps in just a few years, even the computer used by you readers could be replaced with an affordable, high-end quantum computer! However, as optimistic as this research paper makes me, it likewise brings up the silly observation that, while quantum computing research has always been an interdisciplinary effort, it has thus far neglected one of the most crucial area of research for physically actualizing quantum computers! How can you BUILD anything, without considering the materials needed for it!?

Perhaps the era of researchers such as Watson and Crick “borrowing” Rosalind Franklin’s research are over. Only time will tell if researchers have the time to discover other new and exciting concepts that may have been ignored, such as love and compassion!

Leon, N. P., Itoh, K. M., Kim, D., Mehta, K. K., Northup, T. E., Paik, H., Palmer, B. S., Samarth, N., Sangtawesin, S., & Steuerman, D. W. (2021). Materials challenges and opportunities for quantum computing hardware. Science, 372(6539).


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