Quantum Computers Are One Step Closer — Authorities Fear Their Power Could Be Used Disruptively

Sandra Hajda

Scientists in Finland have made an important breakthrough that brings us a step closer to building a quantum computer.

The team led by quantum physicist Mikko Möttönen succeeded in transporting heat 10,000 times further than ever before, with maximal effectiveness. Science Daily reported on the discovery today, saying that it “may lead to a giant leap in the development of quantum computers.”

The development of quantum computers has been delayed thus far for a number of reasons, one of which is the need to develop technology that cools the computers super-efficiently.

The Finnish research team have now succeeded in developing a very promising cooling technique.

The group at Aalto University developed a device that transports heat in a new way “farther than heat has ever been transported in a computer chip.” It was reported in the the journal Nature Physics on Feb. 1, 2016.

Reports stress that quantum technology is still a developing research field, and that the quantum computer is one of the most exciting and promising applications of the technology. It is believed that in the future these super-efficient computers will be able to solve problems that a normal computer could never crack.

“The efficient operation of a quantum computer requires that it can be cooled down efficiently.”

The device or “chip” that the researchers developed incorporated the use of photons of light as heat carriers. The photons moved through a transmission line with no electrical resistance.

When the device was tested, it was found that heat could be transferred faster and father than ever before.

The device can carry heat about one meter — 100,000 times farther than any know mechanism — bringing us one step closer to providing the massively efficient cooling that a quantum computer requires.

Science Daily put it as, “Möttönen’s innovation may be utilized in cooling quantum processors very efficiently and so cleverly that the operation of the computer is not disturbed.”

The Examiner has described the discovery in strong terms indeed.

“[T]he group has developed a new type of heat transfer physics.”

Professor Mikko Möttönen spoke about his team’s breakthrough, saying, “our research started already in 2011 and advanced little by little. It feels really great to achieve a fundamental scientific discovery that has real practical applications.”

Another application of quantum technology will be the development of a quantum information network. This will allow for the establishment for an architecture for quantum computers, enabling elements like logic gates and nodes to be created in the quantum computing world ie. the machines will be able to talk to each other. An advantage of such a network is that it will be super-secure, according to Science Daily News.

The development of the network is further away, however.

“When a long-awaited quantum information network finally arrives, in whatever form, it will incorporate two essential technologies: a method of generating and manipulating quantum bits* (qubits); and a method of moving those qubits from one network node to another one far away without destroying their fragile quantum states.”

According to Phys.org, quantum computers would allow us to search large amounts of data more effectively and model physics problems and physical processes better than ever before.

“For the time being, if we want to model quantum physical systems, conventional computers are quite poor. Quantum computers would be much better. And this, in turn, would have many applications, for example, in material science or in chemistry.”

According to MIT Technology Review, the NSA (the arm of United States security responsible for monitoring and collecting information) is already worried about the power of quantum computers to crack security encryption.

“The National Security Agency did a surprising thing last August – it suddenly declared that the algorithms it had spent a decade telling the world were the best way to lock up secret data weren’t safe anymore. The reason? The danger of quantum computers.”

The NSA has released a fascinating Q&A about the problem. Officials stress that it is important to “act now” before quantum computers enable those who possess the technology to snoop on others’ data on a scale never imagined before.

“There is growing research in the area of quantum computing, and enough progress is being made that NSA must act now.”

The Q&A document is aimed at companies and government departments working with sensitive data.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]