February 14, 2007 4:00 AM PST
Start-up demos quantum computer
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D-Wave's appeal differs in that its computer will be able to solve much larger problems than companies are currently able to tackle, said Steve Jurvetson, a partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson and an investor in D-Wave. Many medical outfits actually limit the scope of their research to fit the existing computational abilities. D-Wave has 100 patent applications filed, and 35 have been granted.
However, how larger systems will behave remains unknown, Rose said. D-Wave has engineered its chip so that the qubits are insulated from noise and other factors, and he has confidence that the number of qubits can be increased, "but we could be wrong," he said.
Another distinct advantage that the computer will have comes in energy consumption. Niobium is a superconductor and, thus, does not radiate heat. The chip itself requires only a few nanowatts.
The refrigeration unit consumes the most power at 20 kilowatts, which is still small compared with most server farms. Expanding the number of qubits on the chip will not require massive increases of refrigeration, Rose added.
Even with the explanations, quantum concepts can be a little tough to digest. Rose reminded the audience that humans consist of atoms that first appeared in a supernova billions of years ago. Trying to understand those atomic interactions that lead up to the present is at the heart of quantum computing.
"When I went to school, they didn't teach quantum mechanics," Martin said. "Newton was my boy."
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