Quantum memory breakthrough could lead to ultrafast computing

A 'world record' in quantum memory has been broken by a team of scientists in Canada, potentially paving the way for ultrafast data transmission through quantum computing.

The researchers at Simon Fraser University, led by Professor Mike Thewalt, published their findings today in the journal Science. The results revealed that a fragile quantum memory state could be held at room temperature for 39 minutes – 100 times longer than was previously possible.

What this means is that quantum systems could potentially be used to store data, making computers vastly more powerful. Rather than the 1s and 0s that are stored in traditional hard drives, quantum systems use "qubits" of information that are stored in a "superposition state". In this state they are able to perform multiple calculations simultaneously by behaving as both 1s and 0s at the same time.

"Quantum memories capable of storing and retrieving coherent information for extended times at room temperature would enable a host of new technologies," the abstract to the report reads.

"Electron and nuclear spin qubits using shallow neutral donors in semiconductors have been studied extensively but are limited to low temperatures, however, the nuclear spins of ionized donors have the potential for high-temperature operation."

There is still a lot of work to be done but this breakthrough opens up new areas of study and suggests that this technology could eventually be used commercially.

"Having such robust, as well as long-lived, qubits could prove very helpful for anyone trying to build a quantum computer," co-author Stephanie Simmons of Oxford University's department of materials told the BBC. "39 minutes may not seem very long. But these lifetimes are many times longer than previous experiments."