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'Poor man's qubit' can solve quantum problems without going quantum

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Quantum without being quantum...

A joint program between Purdue University and Tohoku University in Japan has demonstrated the fundamental units of what would be a probabilistic computer -- called p-bits. These are in analogy to bits and QuBits in standard and quantum computers respectively. p-bits are capable of performing some calculations that quantum computers would normally be called upon to perform.

It may be some time before quantum computers challenge classical computers in specific classes of problems. However, the "probabilistic computer" could bridge the gap between classical and quantum computing in those same problems much sooner.

The joint study was published Wed (Sept 18) in Nature. That article introduces the device architecture that serves as a basis for probabilistic computers and describes how to use such a p-bit computer to more efficiently solve problems in areas such as drug research, encryption and cybersecurity, financial services, data analysis and supply chain logistics.

Supriyo Datta, Thomas Duncan Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, at Purdue

"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.

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