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The Netherlands plans to build a new-generation quantum computer09 October 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
How fast will computers be in 15 years' time? Well, if it’s a quantum computer, it could potentially be millions of times faster than those we use now.
The Dutch government recently announced a large investment in the idea of a quantum computer, making the Netherlands one of the first countries in the world to establish such a large-scale initiative.
Together with TU Delft and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the government is funding the establishment of the QuTech Centre in Delft.
The centre is designed to form a bridge between research on the quantum computer and the Dutch high-tech industry.
The project will be headed by TU Delft Professor Leo Kouwenhoven, who said, "Our ambition is to build the world’s first working quantum computer. Our scientific know-how is now approaching the point where we can prove that we can really build such a computer."
This scientific know-how includes research done by TU Delft, such as the detection of the Marjona particle and quantum entanglement at a distance, both of which are discoveries that will help develop the quantum computer.
A quantum computer would make use of the fact that elementary particles have a quantum state. This means that they can exist in several states simultaneously.
In a quantum computer, a quantum bit is simultaneously 1 and 0, instead of 1 or 0 as in a normal computer. This enables the computer to rapidly solve mathematical problems with extremely large numbers of variables.
These are the sorts of mathematical problems that are common in daily life, for example in the models that predict the weather or in accurately determining the effects of a medicine on an individual cell.
Photo by Flickr user dano
Such mathematical problems currently require huge amounts of time to calculate using powerful supercomputers, but could be solved by a quantum computer in a flash.
The centre will work with the cooperation of other research institutes, such as independent research organisation TNO and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research. There are also some early adopters from the business community involved, some of whom will be building components, while others wish to put the quantum knowledge developed to use in different applications, such as sensors.
Death of the classical computer?
The video below explains in further detail how a quantum computer would work, but it also highlights the fact that quantum computers will not replace your average desktop for our normal daily tasks.
Quantum computers are not universally faster; they are only faster for special types of calculations. For watching a video, browsing the internet or writing a document, quantum computers will not offer any particular improvement.