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Mistakes happen — especially in quantum computers. The fragile quantum bits, or qubits, that make up the machines are notoriously error-prone, but now scientists have shown that they can fix the flubs.

Computers that harness the rules of quantum mechanics show promise for making calculations far out of reach for standard computers (SN: 6/29/17). But without a mechanism for fixing the computers’ mistakes, the answers that a quantum computer spits out could be gobbledygook (SN: 6/22/20).

Combining the power of multiple qubits into one can solve the error woes, researchers report October 4 in Nature. Scientists used nine qubits to make a single, improved qubit called a logical qubit, which, unlike the individual qubits from which it was made, can be probed to check for mistakes.

“This is a key demonstration on the path to build a large-scale quantum computer,” says quantum physicist Winfried Hensinger of the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, who was not involved in the new study.

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