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How to use a quantum computer

We are experiencing the dawn of a new, exciting technology: quantum technology. From ultra-precise measurements and unbreakable encryption to quantum computers, these tools are set to change humanity forever. Quantum technology also comes with the big challenge of being able to manipulate the very sensitive components, which even supercomputers will be challenged in calculating how to control.

Take the following example: you have a set of electrons, arranged one next to each other, forming a chain. The electrons have a magnetic moment, called spin, which can point up, down and everything in-between. Because the electrons are interacting, if you change where the spin of one of them is pointing, the other ones will also change; think of it as an array of magnets; if you wiggle one of them the rest will also wiggle in turn. In theory, you can use this electron chain to transmit information: the spin pointing down can represent 0 in binary while pointing up will represent 1. You can use magnetic fields to manipulate the spin of the electrons close to you and a person at the other end of the chain can measure the oscillating spin of the electrons close to them to read the message.

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WRITTEN BY

Dr Diego A. Quiñones
Teaching Fellow, University of Bath

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