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Purdue and Microsoft to Collaborate on Quantum Computer

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Purdue University and Microsoft Corp. have signed a five-year agreement to develop a useable quantum computer.

Purdue is one of four international universities in the collaboration. Michael Manfra, Purdue University's Bill and Dee O'Brien Chair Professor of Physics and Astronomy, professor of materials engineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering, will lead the effort at Purdue to build by producing a "topological qubit."

"Someday, quantum computing will move from the laboratory to actual daily use, and when it does, it will signal another explosion of computing power like that brought about by the silicon chip," said Michael Daniels, president of Purdue. "It’s thrilling to imagine Purdue at the center of this next leap forward.”

With quantum computers, information is encoded in qubits, which are quantum units of information. With a qubit, however, this physical state isn't just 0 or 1, but can also be a linear combination of 0 and 1. Because of the quantum mechanic phenomenon of "superposition," a qubit can be in both states at the same time. This characteristic is essential to quantum computation’s potential power, allowing for solutions to problems that are intractable using classical architectures.

The team assembled by Microsoft will work on a type of quantum computer that is expected to be especially robust against interference from its surroundings, a situation known in quantum computing as decoherence. The scalable topological quantum computer is theoretically more stable and less error-prone.

Purdue and Microsoft entered into an agreement in April 2016 that extends their collaboration on quantum computing research, effectively establishing "Station Q Purdue," one of the Station Q experimental research sites that work closely with two Station Q theory sites. This new, multi-year agreement extends that collaboration and includes Microsoft employees being embedded in Manfra's research team at Purdue.

Manfra’s group at Station Q Purdue will collaborate with Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft team members, as well as a global experimental group established by Microsoft including experimental groups at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, TU Delft in the Netherlands and the University of Sydney, Australia. They are also coupled to the theorists at Microsoft Station Q in Santa Barbara. All groups are working together to solve quantum computing’s biggest challenges.

"What's exciting is that we're doing the science and engineering hand in hand, at the same time," Manfra says. “We are lucky to be part of this truly amazing global team.”

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2017
BusinessPurdueMicrosoftquantum computingMichael DanielsMichael ManfraAmericasEuropeeducationlight speed

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