(PhysOrg.News) Scientists at the University of Chicago saw an opportunity to do a very unusual experiment with an open-access quantum computer to test quantum principles. Their study hijacked a quantum computer to discover fundamental truths about the quantum behavior of electrons in molecules.
In their study, Prof. David Mazziotti, Prof. David Shuster and graduate student Scott Smart created a set of algorithms that would ask IBM’s Q Experience computer to randomly generate quantum states in three-electron systems, and then measure where the electrons are most probably located. “Quantum computing is a really exciting realm to explore fundamental questions. It allows us to observe aspects of quantum theory that are absolutely untouchable with classical computers,” said Mazziotti, professor of chemistry and author on the paper.
The scientists were studying the Pauli exclusion principle–that two electrons cannot occupy the same position in space at the same time. In many cases, a molecule’s electrons experience additional restrictions on their locations; these are known as the generalized Pauli constraints. “The simplest generalized Pauli constraints were discovered theoretically on a classical computer at IBM in the early 1970s, so it is fitting that for the first time they would be experimentally verified on an IBM quantum computer,” Mazziotti said.