Computers built with quantum technology (a quantum computer) may fundamentally change what a computer may be able to accomplish. Many problems are so complicated that even the fastest supercomputer would currently take millions of years to provide an answer. Optimising financial transactions, machine learning, creating new medicines, understand protein folding and breaking codes are just some of the problems where the existence of a quantum computer could change everything.
At the University of Sussex we are in the process of constructing a practical quantum computer utilising ultra-cold trapped charged atoms. I will give an overview of our work and I will also explain the phenomena that give rise to such a massive increase in computational power. The abilities of quantum computing will have significant societal implications. I will discuss foreseeable societal implications, speculate on unforeseen ones and I will discuss what ethical considerations should be taken and how one could imagine addressing these.
Prof Winfried Hensinger heads the Sussex Ion Quantum Technology Group and he is the director of the Sussex Centre for Quantum Technologies. Hensinger’s group works on constructing a practical trapped-ion quantum computer as well developing portable quantum sensors. Hensinger produced the first ion trap microchip in the world and more recently, his group developed a new generation of quantum microchips featuring world record specifications. In 2016, Hensinger and his group invented a ground-breaking new approach to quantum computing with trapped ions where voltages applied to a quantum computer microchip can replace billions of laser beams which would have been required in previous proposals on how to build a quantum computer. Hensinger recently announced the first practical blueprint for building a quantum computer in a paper published in Science Advances giving rise to the assertion that is now possible to construct a large scale quantum computer. Prof Hensinger obtained his PhD at the University of Queensland demonstrating new and strange quantum effects with ultracold atoms. During his PhD, he spent an extended period at NIST in Gaithersburg in the group of Nobel laureate William Phillips where he managed to observe a new quantum effect for the first time where an atom moves both forward and backwards simultaneously. He then spent three years at the University of Michigan developing ways to scale ion trap quantum computing.