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 user 2005-07-14 at 10:53:00 am Views: 47
  • #12166
    HP makes futuristic discovery Photons rather than electrons are used to process data

    Hewlett-Packard scientists have conducted breakthrough research in the use of light particles in computing that they say could someday help engineers build faster and more secure networks.

    The findings of HP scientists in Bristol, England, are part of a growing field called optical quantum computing, in which photons — the basic components of light — instead of electrons are used to process information.

    The technology is “still several decades away” from becoming reality, HP said.

    “We’re very excited about it,” said Ray Beausoleil, a principal scientist at HP Labs’ Quantum Science Research group in Palo Alto, who worked on the project. “This has been a theoretical breakthrough. Now it’s time to really try seeing whether or not it’s practical.”

    HP said Bill Munro and Tim Spiller of HP Labs Bristol, with Kae Nemoto of the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo, have developed a new system to enable two individual photons to interact with one another as part of a computer system.

    Most of the proposed quantum computing systems require hundreds of photons, most of which would be wasted, HP said.

    The HP scientists’ research proposes a system with a handful of photons that interact with laser beams, Beausoleil said.

    “We don’t need as many of them to be there at the same time,” he said. “If this idea works, we would need only a handful of them. Then it becomes more realistic… Nobody has tried this technique.”

    The scientists’ findings were published in May in the New Journal of Physics.

    Beausoleil stressed that the HP study builds on the outstanding work that other scientists have already done in the field of optical quantum computing.

    Scientists have been working on developing an optical quantum computer system in different research institutions such as the University of Queensland in Australia, the University of Illinois, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Vienna in Austria, Australian physics Professor Gerard Milburn said.

    Scientists and engineers hope the work will lead to more-efficient, faster computer networks.

    Beausoleil said optical quantum computers could also mean more-secure networks.

    “What we could see is certain financial transactions, like the distribution of credit card numbers, can be encoded in quantum states,” he said.

    Milburn, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Queensland, called the HP findings an “extremely viable scheme.”

    “A lot more work needs to be done to see if it works in practice, but I think it is very promising,” he said.