This talk was presented at the inaugural US-China Young Physicists Forum, an event hosted by the American and Chinese Physical Societies. Given the focus was on condensed matter/materials science, I decided to discuss ideas related to quantum simulation.
One of the great promises of quantum computation is to put the quantum world to work solving problems that are believed to be not efficiently tractable on a classical computer. It has been discovered that for some problems, such speedups are possible; the main bottleneck in using these speedups is the non-existence of a full-fledged quantum computer. Efforts towards constructing one have been hindered by the delicate nature of quantum information - unwanted disturbances can lead to the computer crashing.
Consequently, there has been much work in developing techniques to build and control devices that, while not as computationally powerful as a quantum computer, can but used to solve simple yet interesting problems. These devices are known as quantum information processors (QIPs). QIPs could provide a building block for a larger-scale quantum computer, performing a role analogous to arithmetic logical units in classical computers.
QIPs are built upon a diverse range of physical systems such as superconductors, atomic traps, or photonics. I will review some of the challenges involved in constructing QIPs and discuss their practical potential for changing the way we think of and build computers.