Although still a long way to go before a quantum computer will be commercially available, researchers at the Simon Fraser University have created a qubit from phosphorus atoms embedded in a very pure silicon crystal that survived a whopping 39 minutes at room temperature.
Previous room temperature survival records for various kinds of qubits made of solid materials such as silicon have ranged from two to 25 seconds.
Researchers are trying to develop quantum computers because they have the potential for exponentially greater computing power than conventional computers. That is because conventional computers encode data as "bits," each of which is in one of two possible states, "0" or "1," while quantum computers encode data as "qubits" that can each be in multiple states simultaneously. That would allow them to perform multiple calculations at the same time.
The phenomenon of being in a "0" and "1" state simultaneously, known as "superposition," is possible due to the strange laws of quantum physics that apply only to very small particles such as atoms that are used to create qubits.
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