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Scientists from the University of Maryland have created the world’s first fully programmable and reconfigurable quantum computer by using laser beams to manipulate ions to solve complex algorithms faster than any conventional computer. Today’s computers are based on the binary numbering system, zero and one bits representing either an “off” and “on” state at any given time, to store data and perform calculations. #Quantumcomputers use qubits ( #quantumbits ), which exhibit properties of superposition (two states existing at the same time) and entanglement (shared properties). These traits allow quantum computers to solve algorithms beyond the reach of traditional computers. Other researchers have been able to create small quantum computers capable of solving one particular problem. However, the scientists at the University of Maryland have successfully engineered a new module that is able to run three different basic algorithms by manipulating combinations of ions trapped in a linear chain using an array of tightly-focused laser beams and dedicated detection channels that watch for the glow of each ion. The re-configurability of the laser beams is a key advantage, stated Shantanu Debnath, graduate student at the university’s Joint Quantum Institute.

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