The report in the journal Science Advances is a step toward building such a computer, which has not yet been tested or even shown to work.
“For many years, people said that it was completely impossible to construct an actual quantum computer,” said co-author Winfried Hensinger of the University of Sussex.
“With our work we have not only shown that it can be done but now we are delivering a nuts and bolts construction plan to build an actual large-scale machine.”
Researchers said they have managed to overcome some key obstacles, devising a “new approach (that) would allow 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fiber link technology,” said the study.
Instead of using fiber optic connections to connect individual computer modules, as had previously been proposed, the blueprint “introduces connections created by electric fields that allow charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another.”
This permits actual quantum bits to be transmitted between individual quantum computing modules.
But researchers cautioned that their design may pose other problems.
“Though the design defeats some challenges associated with laser-based models, it also yields new problems like the creation of strong magnetic field gradients and well-controlled voltages,” said the study.
The blueprint is just a first step. Next, the team plans to build a prototype quantum computer to show proof of principle.
Eventually, researchers say the quantum machine could solve problems that would take an ordinary computer years, including how to create new and lifesaving medicines and unraveling the mysteries of deep space.
Researchers on the team came from US-based Google, the University of Sussex in Britain, Aarhus University in Denmark, RIKEN of Japan and Siegen University in Germany.