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Quantum in the Cloud

Press release issued: 6 September 2013

Thought only Google and Nasa had quantum computers? A first-of-its-kind project unveiled today, will allow you free, global access to a miniature quantum processor chip via the internet.

As speculation about the enormous promise shown by developments in quantum computing grows, Professor Jeremy O’Brien from the University of Bristol today announced at the launch of the British Science Festival 2013, that his team are launching a revolutionary new project called “Qcloud” to make the resources for quantum computing available for everybody.

Few quantum computers exist and most are currently used in academic research.  However, from Friday 20 September, the quantum processor housed at the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol will become the world's first open-access system, allowing researchers from anywhere in the world to access it remotely via the internet.

Using the website bristol.ac.uk/quantum-computing schools, academic research institutions and members of the public can log on and access a quantum simulator, which will be accompanied by user guides and manuals to help users get to grips with the basics of quantum computing.  Once users are satisfied with the results of their simulation, they can submit their experiment to be run on a real quantum photonic processor.

The research team behind this new initiative are keen to open up the possibilities of quantum computing to the next generation of engineers, mathematicians, scientists and entrepreneurs – those in the classroom, as well as the lab.

Project leader, Professor Jeremy O’Brien said: "This technology has helped accelerate our research and is allowing us to do things we never thought possible.  It’s incredibly exciting to think what might be achieved by making this more widely accessible, not only to the brightest minds already working in research, but to the next generation.  I hope that by helping schools to access this technology, and working with the British Science Association to provide educational content around quantum computing, we can achieve incredible things."

Professor Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society said. “it is very exciting to see this kind of technology being made accessible, not only to research institutions, but to the next generation of scientists. The fact that we can give budding young talent access to some of the most advanced computing technology is something that we, as a nation, should be extremely proud of, and I wish the University Of Bristol the very best of luck with it”

Quantum mechanics – the physics of the ultra-tiny – has been heralded as the future of computing, allowing the creation of computer systems which can solve problems at unparalleled speed.

Classic computing relies on each fundamental unit of information (known as a ‘bit’) to be coded as an unambiguous 1 or 0.  In every household and office computer, the time it takes for the wavering electrical signals responsible for transmitting messages to settle down to being either a 1 or a 0 is largely what dictates the speed of the computer chip.  This simple binary coding system can form complex strings of information when multiple bits are present, with a long series of 1s and 0s giving a particular message.

Quantum computing is a much stranger affair, relying instead on the qubit as its unit of information.  The qubit can exist in multiple states at the same time (a phenomenon known as superposition).  Calculations are performed by manipulating the state of the qubit. Theoretically, the nature of qubits means they calculate all answers to a mathematical problem simultaneously, and various algorithms can help the computer to indicate which of the solutions the qubits show is the correct one. This can make complex computations exponentially faster than on a classical machine.

Quantum technologies have demonstrated ultra-secure communications through the exchange of Quantum Keys; measurement beyond the classical limits of precision and calculations such as factoring numbers or solving optimisation problems.  This has generated considerable interest in quantum computing as its power becomes more widely understood and new applications are developed. Recent publications have described quantum approaches to numerical simulations such as those used in computational fluid dynamics.  As quantum technologies become more widely available novel solutions to society’s biggest problems are likely to emerge.