Looking Back to 2012: Quantum Computer Processor Capable of Factoring 15 into 3 and 5, 50% of the Time

Back in 2012, factoring 15 into 3 and 5 a mere half of the time correctly was considered a feat. Where quantum technology is today, it is apparent great strides have been made overall. From 2012, see below. Because Quantum is Coming. Qubit.

**Researchers make quantum processor capable of factoring a composite number into prime factors**

Key points…

+ “Fifteen is a small number, but what’s important is we’ve shown that we can run a version of Peter Shor’s prime factoring algorithm on a solid state quantum processor. This is really exciting and has never been done before,” said Erik Lucero, the paper’s lead author. Now a postdoctoral researcher in experimental quantum computing at IBM, Lucero was a doctoral student in physics at UCSB when the research was conducted and the paper was written.

*“After repeating the experiment 150,000 times, we showed that our quantum processor got the right answer just under half the time” Lucero said. “The best we can expect from Shor’s algorithm is to get the right answer exactly 50 percent of the time, so our results were essentially what we’d expect theoretically.”*

+ Computing prime factors may sound like an elementary math problem, but try it with a large number, say one that contains more than 600 digits, and the task becomes enormously challenging and impossibly time-consuming. Now, a group of researchers at UC Santa Barbara has designed and fabricated a quantum processor capable of factoring a composite number — in this case the number 15 — into its constituent prime factors, 3 and 5.

+ Practical applications motivated the research, according to Lucero, who explained that factoring very large numbers is at the heart of cybersecurity protocols, such as the most common form of encoding, known as RSA encryption. “Anytime you send a secure transmission — like your credit card information — you are relying on security that is based on the fact that it’s really hard to find the prime factors of large numbers,” he said. Using a classical computer and the best-known classical algorithm, factoring something like RSA Laboratory’s largest published number — which contains over 600 decimal digits — would take longer than the age of the universe, he continued. A quantum computer could reduce this wait time to a few tens of minutes. “A quantum computer can solve this problem faster than a classical computer by about 15 orders of magnitude,” said Lucero. “This has widespread effect. A quantum computer will be a game changer in a lot of ways, and certainly with respect to computer security.”

Content may have been edited for style and clarity.