A groundbreaking group of theoretical
and experimental physicists is coming together
to experiment with a phenomenon that disturbed
Einstein and which could one day make super-fast
quantum computers a possibility.
Centenary professor of quantum information science
Vlatko Vedral is an expert in the
theoretical study of entanglement – a phenomenon
Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance'.
Two ‘entangled' particles are connected
because the fate of one depends on the other. A change in one particle
is communicated to the other even faster than the speed of light, breaking
all traditional rules of physics.
Quantum entanglement forms the basis for emerging technologies
including quantum computers, which have a far greater capacity
than today's machines. Computers of the future fuelled by quantum
bits could perform massive calculations – such
as the factorisation of huge numbers – or complicated database searches.
“If you have one million names in a database then it can take a computer up to
one million searches to find a particular one,” explains Professor Vedral. “A
quantum computer could do this in the square root time; so in one thousand
steps rather than a million.”
Professor Vedral's group of theoretical quantum information will
work with an experimental group, creating the UK's largest centre
for quantum work. “The
UK – and Europe generally – is very strong on the theoretical side but
often lacks the funding for experimental support. We are now in a unique
position to be equally good at both,” said Professor Vedral.
The new group will test the fundamental ideas behind quantum mechanics – in
particular how large an entangled system could be – and push them to their
limits in a new £1.35m lab. “Bringing together theoretical and experimental
groups means we can immediately implement our ideas and will allow us to
take more risks,” said Professor Vedral.