/Scientists using ‘quantum headphones’ to protect delicate data (via Qpute.com)
Scientists using 'quantum headphones' to protect delicate data

Scientists using ‘quantum headphones’ to protect delicate data (via Qpute.com)

“When you put on noise-cancelling headphones, when noise is incoming it’s picked up by a microphone and the headphones generate extra noise which cancels out the incoming sound,” Dr Paz Silva said.

“So that’s what we want to do here. There are a number of challenges, but at its heart it’s no different to what happens in the headphones, just adapted to a quantum system.”

A theoretical quantum computer would not just be faster but also able to solve things in ways inconceivable to a normal computer.

“Quantum computers don’t have to get very big before they have enough power that you could turn the planet into a conventional computer and it still wouldn’t match its processing power,” said Professor Howard Wiseman, the director of the Centre for Quantum Dynamics at Griffith University.

Quantum computers encode information using a delicate superposition of atoms called “qubits”, whereas a classical computer uses “bits” of 1s and 0s.


This gives quantum computers theoretically much greater computational power, but the superpositions are extremely fragile and susceptible to environmental interference.

In the proposed model, a qubit is paired with a larger atom with a similar superposition, which acts as the quantum microphone.

When environmental interference acts on the system, the microphone-atom would send information to an advanced algorithm which would use electromagnets to protect the actual qubit.

If that sounds extremely complex and difficult to solve, that’s because it is, according to Professor Wiseman.

“Everything is under development. The theories are still being developed and the device is just starting to be built,” he said.

“The problem of environmental noise is a really critical problem, which is actually holding the development of quantum computers up.

“There are a number of ways to combat that and we will probably need all of them, so this is not going to be the magic bullet which will solve the problem, but it will be one step towards building a working quantum computer.”

The theory was first devised by Dr Paz Silva at Griffith University where all the theoretical modelling is taking place, while teams at UNSW Sydney and University of Technology Sydney are working on the practical applications.

Dr Chris Ferrie, the group leader at UTS, said it was extremely challenging to develop the algorithms to protect the qubit in real-time.

“The data-spectator qubit system is a very challenging testbed for our algorithms,” Dr Ferrie said.

“What we will develop for this application is likely to have broad impact even outside of quantum computing, for instance for advanced tasks in defence and data analytics.”

The project is being funded by the Australian Department of Defence’s Next Generation Technologies Fund, in scientific coordination with the US Army Research Office.

Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.

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