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E l i t e r e s e a rcher EliteForsk Awards 2013 The EliteForsk research awards have been granted by the Danish Ministry for Science, Innovation and Higher Education every year since 2006. Each award is worth DKK 1.2 million (EUR 160,000), of which DKK 200,000 is a personal honorary award, and DKK 1 million is earmarked for research activities. The goal is the quantum computer of the future On 7 February 2013, Professor Ulrik Lund Andersen from DTU Physics received an EliteForsk research award from the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education for his work on quantum optics. His work has the potential to change the information society of the future. Moore’s Law famously states that the number of transistors in a traditional computer will double every two years. And this has more or less been the case over the past 30–40 years, where IT has radically changed the world around us. Over the next decade, however, these transistors are set to shrink to the size of atoms or small molecules—and may become even smaller, which means that our computers cannot get any faster. So what do we do then? Professor Ulrik Lund Andersen thinks that he holds the key to the replacement for the computer as we know it today. This new computer is called ‘the quantum computer’ and will possess power that will completely outperform the conventional model. In Professor Ulrik Lund Andersen’s world—and the world of quantum mechanics—light can be switched on and off simultaneously. Put another way, it can contain zero photons and one photon at the same time. In the same way, an electron at quantum mechanical level can exist in two places at once in what is known as a ‘superposition state’. “Because a quantum bit is both zero and one at the same time, you can carry out parallel operations in contrast to the serial operations run by classical computers. As a result, you can perform two operations at a time. This can then be scaled up. For example, if you create a superposition of 300 quantum bits, it is possible to carry out more operations simultaneously than there are particles in the entire universe. This means that you can perform calculations that would take a classical computer billions of years to complete.” Professor Ulrik Lund Andersen next to his trial setup, where he, together with his students, is trying to produce quantum light for quantum information processing. Development is progressing rapidly “The big challenge in all this is the fact that the quantum bits are incredibly fragile, constantly exchanging energy with the surrounding environment, and in this process the ‘superposition state’ deteriorates from ‘both-and’ to ‘either-or’. So we are trying to pack our quantum bits in special codes which will make them more robust and thus able to withstand the impact from the surrounding environment,” explains Professor Ulrik Lund Andersen. He continues: “It’s a real challenge, but numerous research groups all over the world are focusing on finding a solution. Even though this technology didn’t appear until the turn of the millennium, development is now progressing at an incredible pace.” Tore Vind Jensen Photo Nanna Kreutzmann 28 Technical University of Denmark


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