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Mar 16, 2017 10:10 AM EDT

Quantum Computers: DNA vs Atom Storages, Which Is Better?

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Atom Versus DNA Storage
Both the DNA and the atom can hold billions of information which make them strong contenders as the possible storage device for quantum computers
(Photo : KBS News/YouTube)

The race to make the first commercially viable quantum computer os ongoing. Quantum computers are fast and powerful because they use qubits which can be both 1 and 0 at the same time, a process they call superposition.

However, although superposition is allowed, copying a quantum particle is a big no-no in quantum computer. Because of this, they need a storage device that will hold these large chunks of information, something that traditional storage devices are unable to do. At present, there are two possible solutions to this problem - DNA and atoms as storage devices.

Before storing quantum data, it needs to be converted to binary data made up of 1s and 0s. However, compact storage devices or hardware is needed to store these very large data.

Just how large is it? A 49-cubit quantum computer is able to store 40,000 videos - that's how large it is. At this point, however, there isn't a storage device that is compact enough to hold these data.

DNA and Petabytes

The first contender for quantum computing storage is the DNA., which can hold a lifetime of data, will last long without damaging the data, and is three-dimensional.

A single gram of DNA can hold 215 petabytes of information, which is equals to 215 million gigabytes. If that isn't that mind blowing enough, here's more: one petabyte alone can hold 13.3 years worth of HDTV movies. With 215 petabytes, a person can store almost all of human history inside that single gram.

Aside from that, it can last very long, even for the next generations to come. What more, the data will be well-preserved, unlike the traditional storage devices we have now which can easily be scratched.

The downsides to DNA as a choice of storage are they ar expensive and it takes a long time to read out.

Atoms to the Rescue?

The second solution to compact storage is atom. IBM researchers mentioned in a paper they published recently that they were able to successfully store and read a bit in a single atom. That means, it is possible to store one bit per atom, which is denser than DNA because a DNA base pair is made up of 30 atoms.

What the scientists did was embed holmium atoms into a chip and control it and used electronics to control the magnetic field that comes out of the atom. By spacing atoms jus a nanometer apart from each other, they were able to manipulate each atom.

The downside to using atoms, however, is that they need to be stored in extremely cold, almost absolute zero, temperature or they will interfere with each other and overwrite the data they carry.

In Conclusion

Using atoms and DNA as storage devices will still come a long way and more studies are needed. Moreover, there are still huge challenges ahead that needs to be hurdled but it's scientists are optimistic that it won't take long before quantum computers become a reality.

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