A quantum computer doesn't need to be a single large device but could be built from a network of small parts, new research from the University of Bristol has demonstrated. As a result, building such a computer would be easier to achieve.
Many groups of research scientists around the world are trying to build a quantum computer to run algorithms that take advantage of the strange effects of quantum mechanics such as entanglement and superposition. A quantum computer could solve problems in chemistry by simulating many body quantum systems, or break modern cryptographic schemes by quickly factorising large numbers.
Previous research shows that if a quantum algorithm is to offer an exponential speed-up over classical computing, there must be a large entangled state at some point in the computation and it was widely believed that this translates into requiring a single large device.
In a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, Dr Steve Brierley of Bristol's School of Mathematics and colleagues show that, in fact, this is not the case. A network of small quantum computers can implement any quantum algorithm with a small overhead.
The key breakthrough was learning how to efficiently move quantum data between the many sites without causing a collision or destroying the delicate superposition needed in the computation. This allows the different sites to communicate with each other during the computation in much the same way a parallel classical computer would do.