Most researchers aiming to make quantum computing a reality focus on superconducting quantum bits (qubits), but Microsoft's approach is wholly different.
Microsoft research chief Peter Lee cites the instability of superconducting qubits as their biggest limitation. He says Microsoft's work with topological qubits avoids harnessing electronic properties in favor of exploiting the order in which exotic particles change position. "Under conditions of magnetic flux, they orbit in certain patterns, and if you imagine them dragging a thread behind them as they orbit around one another, they braid that thread into a pattern--and the pattern of the braiding encodes the quantum computing," Lee says. "There could be a lot of noise and wiggling in the orbit, it might be an ugly orbit--but it's definitely orbiting in a clear pattern."
Topological qubit research is the focus of Microsoft's Quantum Architectures and Computation group. The unit's Todd Holmdahl says a topological quantum system has a good chance of being realized. He notes his group is approaching a viable control mechanism for a topological qubit, and growing materials to build such a system can be done faster.
Also to Microsoft's advantage is access to the classical computer needed for qubit control, the software to run it, and associated applications.
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