The lab off … Quantum computing

Solving difficult and complex problems is something that most strive for at TU Delft but in the faculty of Applied Science, the Quantum Computing Group is taking it to another level.

The long-term goal of the group is to realize a working quantum computer, a machine that goes beyond the computational powers of anything available today. With grants from the Dutch government and European Research Council as well as support from Microsoft, the Quantum Computer Lab was built to achieve this goal.

Unlike traditional computers, quantum computers use something called quantum bits (or qubits). “In a quantum computer you can have a superposition of the zero and the one so you can store more information and use that information to compute more things faster,” says Maja Cassidy, a postdoc researcher from Australia.

Quantum states are extremely fragile and thus preserving them for a long time is difficult. Even a tiny thermal fluctuation can uncontrollably flip the qubit state and destroy the quantum information. The group uses a number of refrigerators to cool their computers nearly down to absolute zero and bring thermal fluctuations to a manageable level.

Typically research in this field is quite disjointed. In most cases small research groups collaborate with each other but they are often geographically far apart. What sets the Quantum Computing Group apart is the number of experienced individuals working together in one place and the multitude of approaches. “It is a concentration of knowledge that makes this place stand out,” says Stevan Nadj-Perge a postdoc researcher from Serbia.

“Many of the techniques developed in one project can be useful for the other ones,” adds Cassidy. She goes on, “While we are not sure what is actually going to play out in the future, I think at least what we are doing and the techniques we develop will be applicable from one project to the other.”

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