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Quantum computers

Jülich scientists are making significant contributions to the development of quantum computers. In future these may be able to perform certain tasks faster and more efficiently than is possible with conventional supercomputers. The technology, which for a long time has been merely the stuff of science fiction, has now reached the threshold of market entry.

Conventional computers make calculations using bits, which can only have a value of zero or one. A quantum computer, conversely, works with quantum bits, or qubits. These can additionally assume overlapping, intermediate states characterised by unique quantum properties such as entanglement and interference.

Possible tasks for future quantum computers include optimisation problems such as calculating the shortest route for couriers. Another conceivable application is the simulation of many-particle systems, whose atoms and electrons also obey the laws of quantum physics. Quantum computers would also be able to search large databases in a short time. Moreover, they are considered to be inherently proof against data theft. Quantum technology is therefore seen as the foundation for a new class of physically secure quantum networks.

Quantum information research is one of the main focal areas at the Forschungszentrum Jülich, which is further expanding its expertise in this field by networking with the QuTech Institute in Delft and RWTH Aachen as part of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA). Further pooling of activities is planned as part of the EU FET Flagship on Quantum Technologies programme, which will receive one billion euro in funding.

Scientists at the Jülich-based Peter Grünberg Institute are working on the fundamental principles of components and methods for quantum information processing. These form the basis for quantum computers with 100 or more qubits, which would be needed for practical use. Professor David DiVincenzo, who conducts research at both the Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen, is a pioneer in this field. Among other achievements, his name is associated with the development of criteria for quantum computers, known as ‘DiVincenzo criteria’.

The group headed by Professor Kristel Michielsen at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC) is working on methods and models with which complex quantum systems can be simulated on supercomputers. In recent years, Michielsen has set several new records in the simulation of quantum computers. Researchers and engineers use such simulation processes to develop algorithms for future quantum computers and to test error correction methods in advance on relatively large-scale systems.

The development of appropriate quantum error correction processes is also one of the areas of focus for Professor Barbara Terhal, who works in Delft and Jülich. The instability of quantum bits is considered to be one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome in the development of quantum computers. Existing correction techniques can sometimes only be applied to a limited number of qubits.

Institutes

Peter Grünberg Institute, Theoretical Nanoelectronics (PGI-2 / IAS-3)
Peter Grünberg Institute, JARA Institute Quantum Information (PGI-11)
Quantum Information Processing working group at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC)

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