A team of engineers at the University of Bristol have managed to solve a mathematical problem using photons and could herald the birth of super-powerful computers over the next few decades.
The scientists devised a photonic chip which uses light particles to perform one particular calculation, coming up with the prime factors of 15 which are three and five although it took several seconds to come up with the answers.
More specifically, they performed "the demonstration of a compiled version of Shor’s algorithm on an integrated waveguide silica-on-silicon chip that guides four single-photon qubits through the computation to factor 15." according to the paper on Science.
The algorithm requires a quantum computer, one which combines "the massive parellism afforded by quantum superposition and entanglement of quantum bits (or qubits)".
Alberto Politi, one of the PhD students who carried out the experiment, commented in a statement that “This task could be done much faster by any school kid, but this is a really important proof-of-principle demonstration.”
The technology holds several ground breaking advancements; this could give rise to a new generation of processors that would be able to pack significantly more firepower compared to the current models.
Because photons are use, they can travel without much "friction" and can be carried over very long distances at speeds very near to the speed of light light. Earlier in June 2009, a team of researchers at the University of Yale managed to create the first solid-state quantum processor.
The first processor model designed by Intel looked like a crushed cockroach. Several decades later, their computing power has increased by several billion times with features such as multicore and multi-threading allowing even more to be crammed per unit mm of each transistor.