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For 30 years, researchers have pursued the universal quantum computer, a device that could solve any computational problem, with varying degrees of success. Now, a team in California and Spain has made an experimental prototype of such a device that can solve a wide range of problems in fields such as chemistry and physics, and has the potential to be scaled up to larger systems.

Both IBM and a Canadian company called D-Wave have created functioning quantum computers using different approaches. But their devices are not easily scalable to the many quantum bits (qubits) needed for solving problems that classical computers cannot.

Computer scientists at Google’s research laboratories in Santa Barbara, California, and physicists at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, describe their new device online in Nature1.

“It’s terrific work in many respects, and is filled with valuable lessons for the quantum computing community,” says Daniel Lidar, a quantum-computing expert at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

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