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'Qudit' Computers Go Beyond Ones and Zeroes

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The greatest benefit that may come from using qudits is rooted in the complex quantum systems that scientists hope quantum computers may help analyze.

Credit: Harald Ritsch/University of Innsbruck

Quantum computers mostly depend on quantum bits or "qubits" that each can symbolize two numbers, 0 or 1. Now, in a new study, researchers have developed a quantum computer based on quantum digits or "qudits" that each can encode seven numbers. A qudit computer may prove better at tackling complex problems than qubit computers, and may unlock more computational power with fewer components.

Whereas classical computers represent data as bits—1s and 0s—most quantum computers use qubits. Qubits can exist in a state of superposition where they are both 1 and 0 at the same time. This essentially lets each qubit perform two calculations at once. The more qubits that are quantum-mechanically linked, or entangled, the greater its computational power can grow, in an exponential fashion.

Encoding data as 0s or 1s is the simplest way of performing calculations. However, the quantum components underlying qubits are nearly always capable of more. Restricting these devices to binary data prevents them from living up to their full potential, explains study lead author Martin Ringbauer, a quantum physicist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.


From IEEE Spectrum
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