Quantum Computers Will Be Capable Of Simulating Particle Collisions

  • Published on June 2nd, 2012


Quantum computers are still years away from becoming a reality, but a group of theorists has already developed an algorithm for them to simulate all the possible interactions when two elementary particles collide. Currently this type of research requires years of effort and massive, expensive particle accelerators.

Building quantum computers will require technology we currently don’t have, but they offer the possibility of vastly more powerful computing than even the largest supercomputers of today.

They work by having the switches in their processor take advantage of quantum mechanics, the laws that govern the interaction of subatomic particles. These laws allow the switches in quantum computers to be simultaneously on and off, allowing them to consider all possible solutions at once.

This ability is far beyond that of any current computers, and would enable them to solve extremely complex problems, such as breaking complex codes, and simulating particle collisions.

“We have this theoretical model of the quantum computer, and one of the big questions is, what physical processes that occur in nature can that model represent efficiently?” said Stephen Jordan, a theorist in NIST’s Applied and Computational Mathematics Division. “Maybe particle collisions, maybe the early universe after the Big Bang? Can we use a quantum computer to simulate them and tell us what to expect?”

Problems like those would involve tracking the interactions of a very large number of different elements. Something that is impossible with our current technology.

Looking ahead to the development of a quantum computer, the theorists created an algorithm that will be able to run on any quantum computer, regardless of how it will be built, that can simulate particle collisions.

To do this with conventional computers would require an infeasible number of bits, but the algorithm developed by the theorists “encodes the information that describes this quantum state far more efficiently using an array of quantum switches, making the computation far more reasonable.”

“What’s nice about the simulation is that you can raise the complexity of the problem by increasing the energy of the particles and collisions, but the difficulty of solving the problem does not increase so fast that it becomes unmanageable,” Preskill says. “It means a quantum computer could handle it feasibly.”

“We believe this work could apply to the entire standard model of physics,” Jordan says. “It could allow quantum computers to serve as a sort of wind tunnel for testing ideas that often require accelerators today.”

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Images Credits: Swirled and Abstract via Shutterstock

Keep up to date with all the most interesting green news on the planet by subscribing to our (free) Planetsave newsletter.

About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.
  • Pingback: Atom Split Into Two And Then Put Back Together Using Quantum Mechanics | Planetsave()

  • waccamawbill

    Quantum computers will also enable any known language to be instantly converted to another language. We could one day be wearing an earbud or have an implant in the ear and be able to understand any spoken word in any language. Interface the implant with an iPhone and your spoken word could be converted to any language.

  • andres

    Among the thing hope we can use them it is to get rid once and for all from the concept of soul as a spiritual state bound to a creator….just saying, 🙂

    • sergio


    • that’s an odd comment for this post, especially since quantum physics has generally led more and more to the concept of everything being connected/one.

  • Amara

    Quantum computers? This sounds incredible and i strongly believe this technology will have varied applications other than particle collisions. And as such, i really look forward to the immense potentials the technology hols for the medical firmament.

    • Sheldon Lee Cooper, B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., Sc.D.

      Indeed. I for one welcome the arrival of our quantum-computing overlords.

      • Jay

        If we are ever to have remote possibility of doing things like transporter beaming, holography like the star trek holodeck, or folding space for FTL travel, we will need quantum computers to model the science. Not saying those things are necessarily feasible, but they for sure never will be without quantum computers.