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It may still be decades before quantum computers are ready to solve problems that today's classical computers aren't fast or efficient enough to solve, but the emerging "probabilistic computer" could bridge the gap between classical and quantum computing.
Engineers at Purdue University and Tohoku University in Japan have built the first hardware to demonstrate how the fundamental units of what would be a probabilistic computer—called p-bits—are capable of performing a calculation that quantum computers would usually be called upon to perform.
Study - Nature - Wednesday - Sept - Device
The study, published in Nature on Wednesday (Sept. 18), introduces a device that serves as a basis for building probabilistic computers to more efficiently solve problems in areas such as drug research, encryption and cybersecurity, financial services, data analysis and supply chain logistics.
Today's computers store and use information in the form of zeroes and ones called bits. Quantum computers use qubits that can be both zero and one at the same time. In 2017, a Purdue research group led by Supriyo Datta, the university's Thomas Duncan Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, proposed the idea of a probabilistic computer using p-bits that can be either zero or one at any given time and fluctuate rapidly between the two.
Subset - Problems - Qubits - P-bits - P-bit
"There is a useful subset of problems solvable with qubits that can also be solved with p-bits. You might say that a p-bit is a 'poor man's qubit,'" Datta said.
Whereas qubits need really cold temperatures to operate, p-bits work at room temperature like today's electronics, so existing hardware could be adapted to build a probabilistic computer, the researchers say.
Team - Device - Version
The team built a device that is a modified version of...
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