Quantum computer tested, delivers impressive results

Researchers in Japan have managed to get a quantum computer working, and have shown that it delivers results thousands of times faster than a traditional transistor-based machine.

The computer, which has been built from a single Iodine molecule, was given a discrete Fourier transform to calculate as a proof-of-principle test. A Fourier transform is a simple calculation used in a number of research fields, including spectral analysis and data compression, and is often used as a test of computing abilities.

Here's the science bit. Quantum computers work by analysing the vibrations between a pair of atoms in a molecule. The inputs are encoded into a series of vibrations which are sent through a molecule that's been "excited" at known intervals, and the results are picked up on the other side. The process takes a few 10s of femtoseconds - about a quadrillionth of a second.

While quantum computers are still a long way away from your study, they're now starting to deliver measurable results. The technology still needs to be refined a little to make it simpler and more accessible, but it's likely that once Moore's law in traditional processors breaks down, quantum computers will be the next step.