(DiscoverMagazine) A Chinese start-up has unveiled plans to sell a two-qubit desktop quantum computer costing less than $5,000. The new portable device is one of a range called SpinQ, aimed at schools and colleges. It is made by the Shenzhen SpinQ Technology, based in Shenzhen, China. The machine just needs to be connected to an ordinary computer with a software package capable of controlling it.
The price of the machine is in contrast to other quantum computers supplied by companies such as D-Wave, which cost in the region of $10 million and can process more than 50 qubits.
The SpinQ machine is much less powerful, able to process just two qubits, and relies on nuclear magnetic resonance. This works by trapping specially selected molecules in a powerful magnetic field and then zapping them with radio frequency pulses to manipulate the spins of the atoms they contain.
After each set of radio pulses, the atoms relax and emit their own radio frequency signals, which reveal their new state. In this way, it is possible to flip the spin of atoms—equivalent to changing a 0 into 1 – and make the spins of neighboring atoms interact, which can simulate mathematical operations, and finally to record the result.
This is not the company’s first quantum computer. Last year, it started selling a desktop quantum computer for around $50,000.