Quantum information science exists at the interface between computer science and quantum physics. For this reason, it is inherently interdisciplinary, requiring input from experts in many different fields. CIFAR brings together 35 leading researchers from mathematics, computer science, cryptography, theoretical physics, experimental physics, chemistry, engineering and other relevant disciplines. Together, these researchers aim to harness the power of quantum mechanics and create exponentially more powerful computers.
(Image courtesy of Marek Pechal, Quantum Device Lab, ETH Zurich)
Quantum computing could affect society on a scale similar to that of the digital computer revolution. When researchers solve the theoretical and practical problems, quantum computing promises to vastly increase the computational speed, security and power available to us.
In 1994, mathematician Peter Shor published a famous algorithm about calculating the prime factors of very large numbers. This is a task that would take classical computers millions of years, but Shor’s algorithm showed that a quantum computer could do it in minutes. Not only did this provide a concrete example of a problem that only quantum computers could solve, it also had serious implications for the world of computer security. Many common cryptography algorithms — the technology used to keep banking transactions and other sensitive information secret — rely on the fact that factoring large numbers is something that cannot quickly be done by classical computers. If a quantum computer could be built, it could break almost any existing security code and allow for more secure cryptography.
In addition to cryptography, quantum computation could solve difficult optimization problems — that is, selecting the best solution out of a large set of possible answers. Examples include finding a drug molecule that would bind to a particular target in the human body, or choosing the best price at which to sell a product in a crowded and complex market. If quantum computers can solve those problems more quickly than classical computers, they could have huge implications for banking, medicine, defence and many other fields.
Aephraim M. Steinberg showed that quantum information stored in a collection of identically prepared qubits can be perfectly compressed into exponentially fewer qubits.
CIFAR’s quantum information science program is organized around three major themes:
- Where does the power of quantum computation come from?
- How can we control quantum systems?
- What would quantum cryptography look like?
Knill, E., R. Laflamme et G.J. Milburn. "A scheme for efficient quantum computation with linear optics." Nature 409 (2001) : 46-52. Abstract
Negrevergne, C. et al. "Benchmarking quantum control methods on a 12-qubit system." Physical Review Letters, 96 (2006) : 170501 Abstract
L. A. Rozema et al., “Quantum Data Compression of a Qubit Ensemble,” Physical Review Letters 113, 16 (2014). Abstract
J. Zhang et al., “Digital quantum simulation of the statistical mechanics of a frustrated magnet,” Nature Communications 3, 880 (2012). Abstract