Researchers work to ensure accurate decoding in fragile quantum states

Southern University has released plans for the fall 2020 semester.
Southern University has released plans for the fall 2020 semester.(SU)
Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 1:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - When computers share information with one another, the information gets encoded into bits, then decoded back into its original form. In the process, pieces of the information sometimes get scrambled, or lost. As a simplified example, an improperly decoded email that says “I am now sending you the money” could arrive at its destination saying “I am not sending you the money.”

Another example: When you save a document on your computer, you expect it to hold the same information when you reopen it. And, if you ask a computer to solve the equation 2+2, you need to trust it will spit out 4. This is even more important for complex equations that you can’t calculate yourself, like the values for x, y and z in the Diophantine equation.

Bane Vasić, a professor of electrical and computer engineering specializes in error correction codes, which ensure that the information shared and calculated by computers is properly decoded before arriving at its destination. He also studies fault tolerance, or the ability of a computer or network of computers to continue functioning when one or more of its components fails.

Vasić has been instrumental in developing a class of error correction codes – called low-density parity check codes, or LDPC codes – used widely in classical communications and data storage. In a project funded by $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation, Vasić is partnering with Saikat Guha in the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences to test the feasibility of quantum LDPC codes in quantum computers for the first time.

"Through quantum computing, we will be able to analyze very complicated phenomena, and to solve problems that are not solvable by classical computers. And this will be done very fast," Vasić said. "There are applications in biology; medicine; finances; the simulation of physical, chemical and biological systems; the discovery of new materials; and the design of molecules."

How is this possible? Classical computing stores information in units called bits, which exist as either 0s or 1s. Quantum computing uses units called qubits, which can exist in multiple states simultaneously. The superposition of states is what allows for ultra-speedy, futuristic computing. However, as qubits are physically realized as subatomic particles, this state is very fragile to create and maintain, making qubits more prone to error, or decoherence, than bits.  

“In this project, we are investigating methods where we don’t leave the quantum world, so all of the operations will also be quantum,” Vasić said. “We want to explore whether decoding can be done by processing quantum information.”

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