Home Back Issues August 2011 Quantum computers may be the future

Quantum computers may be the future

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Articles - August 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011

By Cory Mimms

0811_NextThe physical limits of computer technology are quickly approaching. The number of transistors — switching devices — that are capable of fitting on a circuit doubles approximately every two years. This exponential growth, known as Moore’s Law, allows computers to do more while becoming smaller. However, between 2020 and 2030 transistors will hit the atomic level, freezing the growth in computer processing power. Quantum computers could be the solution, and Marek Perkowski, professor of electrical engineering at Portland State University, is mapping their circuitry using software simulations and complex mathematics. Normal computers use bits that can be either on or off, but a quantum computer would use a quantum bit, which can exist in both states at the same time. Imagine two photographs. A normal bit can be one image or the other, either on or off, but a quantum computer could superimpose the images and process both simultaneously. Quantum computers could solve complex problems that normal computers would take millions of years to solve. They could help produce new chemicals and drugs, expand our understanding of how cells function, and help meteorologists. If a super computer can predict typhoons, then we can avoid disasters, Perkowski says. He plans to continue his research on quantum circuitry for “many years to come.”


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