We may not see quantum computers in our homes for many decades, but a recent storage breakthrough has made it all the more possible. Previously, quantum data bits (qubits) needed to be stored at temperatures close to absolute zero, and when raised to room temperature, they would be destroyed in just two seconds. Now, scientists have managed to keep qubits ‘alive’ for a whole 39 minutes, considerably longer than in the past.
The long-lasting qubits were formed by placing phosphorus impurities into pieces of silicon, with each phosphorus ion acting as the piece of data. Holding the qubits in superposition – which allows the nuclei to act as a 1 and a 0 at the same time – was achieved, critical to quantum computing.
Unfortunately, the data from a qubit can still only be read when its frozen, so each qubit needs to be refrozen after operations are performed in a process that currently destroys around 63% of the data. However the good news is that 39 minutes of alive qubits at room temperature is a long time for quantum computing, with each operation on a single qubit taking ten microseconds. This means 20 million operations can be performed before 1% of the qubits decayed.
The next step for quantum storage is having diverse data, rather than just all 1s or all 0s like was used in this experiment. That step likely won\’t be achieved for some time, but with consistent research and breakthroughs like the one discussed here, in our lifetimes we might get to play with immensely powerful quantum computers.